Williamson: Choral Music: Requiem for a TribeBrother; Symphony for Voices; English Eccentrics Choral Suite

COMPOSERS: Williamson
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Williamson
WORKS: Choral Music: Requiem for a TribeBrother; Symphony for Voices; English Eccentrics Choral Suite
PERFORMER: Joyful Company of Singers/Peter Broadbent
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557783
The recent death of Sir Malcolm Arnold has recirculated Walton’s waspish comment at the appointment of a new Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975: ‘the wrong Malcolm’s got the job!’. Given subsequent history it was arguably a prophetic remark, but if posterity has treated Malcolm Williamson with a mixture of ambivalence and indifference, there are signs that a reappraisal is afoot (see feature, p54).

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Hot on the heels of Chandos’s ‘Orchestral Works, Vol. 1’ comes this choral disc featuring a choir with better claims than most to spearhead a revival. The Joyful Company of Singers premiered the substantial Requiem for a Tribe Brother in 1992 – and sang it at the composer’s funeral just over a decade later.

It’s an uneven work full of contradictions that throw up stumbling blocks for all but the most avid fan. Queazy Bruckner rubs up against Duruflé, an anodyne (Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque) ‘Pie Jesu’ against a bruising ‘Libera Me’. At its most haunting it goes straight to the heart, but it lacks the compelling authority of the early Symphony for Voices, an unjustly neglected masterpiece.

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Peter Broadbent has persuasive measure of the Williamsonian flow; a little more space in the sound picture, however, would have softened the singers’ occasional hard edge. Paul Riley