WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1908-1988): Symphony No. 4 in E Flat, Op. 54, Symphony No. 8, Op. 117 “Pax Hominibus”, Divertimento in D, Op. 58, Variations on a Scottish Theme, Op. 72.
Catalogue Number: 06T008
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0480
Description: Wordsworth was an impressive symphonist, as amply demonstrated by his 1st and 5th Symphonies (04R007). This disc only reinforces this, with the very fine 4th, a concise and terse full symphonic argument in four movements contained in a single span; his final completed work, the restrained and philosophical 8th; and a symphony in all but name (Vaughan Williams encouraged Wordsworth to add a movement and call it one), the Divertimento, four opus numbers after the 4th. The 4th has no program, but its tautly expressed argument suggests its own purely musical dramatic narrative. The first movement is expository, with a slow introduction followed by the first and second subjects (the latter very Elgarian, likely intended to please the dedicatee, Barbirolli, who had premiered the 3rd Symphony), which recur throughout, binding the work together. There follows a minatory march-like movement punctuated by the skeletal rattling of the xylophone, which recedes to make way for the slow section, melancholy, lyrical and pastoral though not without tension. An extended recapitulation of the Elgarian second subject ushers in the 'finale', which brings together material from throughout the symphony. By the time he wrote the 8th, Wordsworth had lost his wife and suffered a heart attack, and his health was in decline. The work takes its title from the Gloria of the Mass, but the farewell message from the lifelong pacifist and conscientious objector seems to be "peace on earth to men of goodwill, but don't expect it any time soon and I won't live to see it". The first movement is elegiac, pervaded throughout by a mood of melancholy. The second movement begins with a grotesque, scurrying allegro which rapidly burns out in a powerful climax, to be supplanted by a rather Mahlerian melody with a sense of loneliness and departure. This is repeated, and followed by a recapitulation of the first movement material to bring the work to a resigned close. The composer provided an alternative ending which strenuously attempts a kind of triumph, which sounds hollow in the context of the rest of the work. The misleadingly titled Divertimento is in three movements, bound together by a musical cipher of the name of the dedicatee, and is longer than the 8th Symphony. The slow movement, alternating a lyrical treatment of the inversion of the main theme with a series of mysterious, haunting widely spaced chords is especially beautiful. The nine Variations are attractive and lighter in mood, impeccably crafted and ingenious.