Power and Grandeur
GORDON RUMSON investigates Wilfrid Mellers the composer
<< Continued from part II
And what of the vocal/literary works that so profoundly characterise
the music of Wilfrid Mellers? Among them are numerous songs and choral pieces.
The Rose of May: A Threnody for Ophelia, mentioned above, on Shakespeare's
great mad scene from Hamlet, is a powerful composition which combines
the spoken and sung word with two different performers supported by a small
ensemble. The melodic lines are long and wide-ranging, while the instrumental
lines come as fragments of an unheard whole. Mellers' composition is a vivid
rendition of Ophelia's madness and deserves wide recognition.
In all of the vocal music one notices a conscientious respect for declamation
and the sound of the words turned into melody. The texts chosen are of high
quality -- as befits a man with high academic training in literature. And
most importantly the texts are chosen for their dramatic, social, philosophic
or mystical value.
Of the operas it is not possible to speak because they are neither published
nor available. The most intriguing is the The Tragicall History of Christopher
Marlowe, which garnered respectful reviews even in nothing more than
a workshop performance. That the composer has destroyed the score is a terrible
loss. Of the larger orchestral/choral works we also cannot speak, though
they do not all seem to have suffered the fate of the operas.
Wilfrid Mellers has established a major reputation in the literary, musicological
and scholarly realm. His prolific literary output and the dearth of recordings
have blinded us to his merits as a composer. With the wideness of ideas
that characterise his intellectual life's pattern, we can note that he has
produced works in every genre and taken up many stylistic techniques. Throughout
we hear powerful, beautiful and well-crafted music. What is clearly called
for is a re-release of the recorded music on CD as well as new performances
and recordings of the other important works. Then the significant contribution
Wilfrid Mellers has made to composition will be openly recognized as it
so much deserves to be.
Copyright © Gordon Rumson, October
Wilfrid Mellers - a web page and Works List
<< Music &
Vision homepage Gordon Rumson on Denis ApIvor >>