In this CD all three subjects are highly colourful and dramatic and Wallace
gives them the full late romantic treatment in the expansive Germanic tradition.
Influences of Liszt and Wagner are pervasive throughout.
The music for the Prelude to The Eumenides (1893) follows the character
and outline of the Aeschylus story: the opening music driving relentlessly
forward and seething as The Furies seek to punish Orestes for the murder
of his mother Clytemnestra who had, herself, murdered her husband, Orestes'
father. The contrasting conciliatory music represents the defence by Athene
who pleads justifiable homicide and placates The Furies by offering them
asylum, elevated status and a new name - The Benefactors. The Wagnerian influence
is strong - one can hear snippets of Lohengrin,
Tannhäuser and Meistersinger all woven into the fabric
which is just that bit too extravagant - a little judicious snipping might
not have gone amiss.
The lovely Pelléas and Mélisande Suite is the strongest
work here, and it is interesting to compare Wallace's view with the writings
of Debussy, Sibelius and Fauré. The Scottish composer's 1900 setting
of Maeterlinck's symbolist drama, followed that of Fauré's incidental
music for an 1898 production of the play and preceded Debussy's opera, completed
in 1902 and the Sibelius Suite of 1905. Wallace's suite opens with the
increasingly urgent and passionate The Love of Pelléas for
Mélisande. Following the dramatic action, the music's subtle shadings
seem to question the innocence of the lovers' passion and forecasts the ensuing
tragedy. Wallace's charming Spinning Song, central movement, with its captivating
waltz rhythms, is similar, in spirit, to Fauré's conception of this
scene in capturing Mélisande's unaffected innocence - unlike Sibelius's
interpretation which has dark and sinister undercurrents. Wallace conceives
a vast and dark grief for The Death of Mélisande befitting such a
royal tragedy - dramatic funeral drums and trumpets giving way to hushed
misery voiced in the depths of the orchestra.
The Creation Symphony is written on a huge scale - some might find
it over-inflated. It is Wallace's response to the Biblical story of the creation.
Its four movements cover: (1) the creation of heaven and earth out of the
void; Wallace opens the work with great orchestral daring - double basses
divided and solo tuba - to represent emptiness and space; and he chooses
C sharp minor as the main key to produce a dark veiled colouring before the
gradual transformation to an ultimate calm hymn representing light (2) the
light of the stars, moon and sun, is the most successful movement in the
work with music of great beauty and imagination; the starlight section
anticipating today's minimalist music; the moon music tranquil but not without
passion; and the sunlight proclaimed in music of suitable majesty and splendour
(3) the creation of land and sea is the least inspired movement while (4)
the creation of man, is a powerful evocation of the human spirit of love
and creativity, dressed in vivid orchestral colours. Except for the second
movement, stronger, more memorable thematic material might have made this
work more memorable. Nonetheless, this is another very welcome addition to
the expanding British orchestral music repertoire.
More detail on this recording is