Williams: Symphony No. 2; Ballads for Orchestra; Fairest of Stars

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Lyrita
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Ballads for Orchestra; Fairest of Stars
PERFORMER: BBC Welsh SO/Vernon Handley, LSO/Charles Groves
CATALOGUE NO: SRCD 327 Reissue (1980, 1974)
Best remembered these days for her attractive Fantasy on Welsh Nursery Tunes and a resourceful Trumpet Concerto, Grace Williams demonstrates a considerable mastery of orchestral sonorities in this enterprising and authoritatively performed programme. The Ballads, although strongly influenced by Bartók and Shostakovich, are sharply characterised and harmonically pungent miniatures of considerable appeal. In contrast, the Second Symphony is more uncompromising, recalling the irascible moods explored by her teacher Vaughan Williams in his Fourth and Sixth Symphonies. While the highly Romantic setting of Fairest of Stars provides an admirable foil for the other two works, I find the ideas less distinctive on initial hearing even though once again the ravishing textures help to sustain one’s interest. Erik Levi