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'... interesting and imaginative music ... professional and committed throughout.'

The music of American composer George Walker -



'When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky of the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.'

The words of Walt Whitman, reflecting on the death of US President Abraham Lincoln, and set by American composer George Walker for a commission by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, celebrating the achievements of tenor Roland Hayes. Lilacs for voice and orchestra (1995) is lyrical and dramatic music [listen -- track 2, 1:57-2:55], a little reminiscent of Barber's Knoxville, and it was awarded the 1996 Pulitzer Music Prize.

George Walker was born 27 June 1922 in Washington DC, studying at Oberlin and Eastman. His teachers included Nadia Boulanger, Robert Casadesus, Gian Carlo Menotti and Rosario Scalero. Walker began his musical career as a virtuoso pianist, with composing and teaching work coming later. He taught at Smith College, Rutgers University (Newark) and at the Peabody Conservatory. He has written more than 80 works for most media, and is the recipient of many honours and awards.

Lilacs - The Music of George Walker (c) 2000 Summit Records

This disc begins with Tangents for chamber orchestra (1999), and it's powerful, weighty stuff. Strong pop and jazz influences don't undermine the 'seriousness' of the music, which was conceived as a short fanfare for the new millennium, and commissioned, premièred and now played on this disc by the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, Ohio conducted by Timothy Russell [listen -- track 1, 1:57-2:57].

The rest of the disc consists of chamber music. The Wind Set for woodwind quintet (1999) is a two movement piece with lyrical and virtuosic rhythmic music juxtaposed.

We have the chance to hear the composer as pianist in the Violin Sonata No 2 (1979), with violinist son Gregory [listen -- track 10, 0:00-0:56], and the second String Quartet of 1968 is played by the El Paso Festival Quartet.

The playing and singing of this interesting and imaginative music is professional and committed throughout.

Copyright © 9 June 2001 Keith Bramich, London, UK






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