WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1908-1988): Orchestral Music, Vol. 4 - Symphony No. 7, Op. 107 “Cosmos”, A Spring Festival Overture, Op. 90, Jubilation: A Festivity for Orchestra, Op. 78, Confluence: Symphonic Variations, Op. 100.
Catalogue Number: 02X009
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0618
Description: Wordsworth's overdue rediscovery (06T008, 04R007, 08V009, 05W001) continues apace with this fourth volume in Toccata's valuable series. As we’ve come to expect, the works here are serious in tone, tonal in idiom and worked through with the thoroughness and taut argument that his studies with Tovey would suggest. Of the remarkable 5th Symphony, (05W001) we remarked on its "felicitous touches of inventive orchestration and unexpected textures, and puts firmly to rest any suspicion that Wordsworth was in any sense a staid or reactionary symphonist, or in any sense 'conventional'", and this holds true of the works here, and is by no means the only reason to hail Wordsworth as a composer of diverse and highly original inspiration. The Seventh Symphony's subtitle, "Cosmos" reflects the composer’s lively interest in astronomy, cosmology, science, and science fiction, and this grand and powerful work gives full rein to his visionary imagination in a very unconventional symphonic form in which the "development" is most of the continuous single span of the piece and takes the form of free variations of two themes presented at the outset, very much in the manner of a passacaglia, and with the same unhurried cumulative effect as many of the finest examples of that genre. The first movement begins with two densely sonorous, ("cosmic" in a deliberately stereotypical sense), string chords, which recur between key sections of the piece and were originally directed to be pre-recorded and projected electronically at the appropriate times and volume level. In this recording they were presumably multi-tracked by the orchestra. The orchestra takes over, and the thematic material of the work is presented and subject to variation in an extended section that establishes the idea of a passacaglia-like form. The section climaxes and leads into two churning, turbulent variations which contain the only really fast music in the symphony. The hugely amplified return of the "pre-recorded" chords heralds an imposing re-establishment of the steady pulse of the opening, and gradually leads into the next extended "variation" section, marked "sostenuto", which fulfils the function of the symphony’s "slow movement" while remaining part of its developmental arc. Again, this section gathers weight and arrives at a final, massive climax and an augmented recapitulation of the main themes before being swept away by the return of the pre-recorded chords which usher in a quiet coda which seems to drift away into the depths of space. Four years earlier, the "Symphonic Variations" sounds as though it could be related to the symphony, in its gradual unfolding and exploration of thematic material presented at the beginning. Here, though, after a stately, flowing introductory section, there is more contrast in character between adjacent variations, in the customary manner of variation sets. A stern variation leads to a menacing, militaristic section. The theme is then revealed to have great melodic potential, unlocked in a series of beautiful sections featuring different soloists within the orchestra and most imaginatively scored, almost suggesting a concerto for orchestra. Not unexpectedly, the final section is a fugue, bringing the work to a decisive and thunderous close. The appealing Spring Festival Overture represents the arrival of spring from under the oppressive weight of winter. Wordsworth's emotional range is broad, but frivolously lightweight was not in his vocabulary, so the opening of this piece is a good deal more imposing and dramatic than many composers would have done with this subject. Although the trajectory of the narrative is clear, with warmer tones and birdsong gradually emerging from winter's icy grip, the full-voiced nature of the textures has something in common with Sibelian nature music; and a sense of mystery, as of ancient sunrise rituals over fields of melting snow, lend the work considerable dramatic weight. Calling a piece "Jubilation" and a "festivity" might lead one to expect a lively, lightweight diversion, but there is actually a good deal more going on in this substantial 12-minute tone poem, not all of it jubilant by any means. A rather pompous opening leads to a series of playful episodes of varying character, not without their shadows, and a mysterious passage hinting at distant troubled events, abruptly dispelled by a burst of raucous slapstick and a return to an elegantly jaunty scherzando mood. There are fugato sections, of course, and militaristic episodes, some distant and unsettling, others close-up and hectoring. The magical passage with distant fanfares returns, and the piece ends with a grandiose march.