Grace Williams: Violin Sonata; Sextet for Oboe, Trumpet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano; Suite for Nine Instruments; Romanza; Sarabande; Rondo for Dancing

Reviewed on Thu 25 Apr, 2019

Delicately championed by Madeleine Mitchell, the graceful Violin Sonata (1930, revised 1938) shares some kinship in its morosely lyrical middle movement with Williams’ one-time tutor, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Glancingly featured on disc, Welsh composer Grace Williams (1906-77) receives a welcome boost with this sympathetically played chamber music collection featuring six first recordings. Delicately championed by Madeleine Mitchell, the graceful Violin Sonata (1930, revised 1938) shares some kinship in its morosely lyrical middle movement with Williams’ one-time tutor, Ralph Vaughan Williams. More so, the 1931 Sextet for piano quartet, oboe and trumpet, the evocative brass voice dexterously prompting responses by turns poetic, pert and playful. RVW is there, too, in the animated Suite for Nine Instruments (1934), where multiple voices weave balletically around each other to picturesque effect before a sprightly, image-rich finale. Arranged for oboe and clarinet, the 1940s’ Romanza is a delightfully tipsy-sounding pas de deux, the Sarabande for left-hand piano (1958) a sombre exercise in suspended animation, superbly played by David Owen Norris. The late Rondo for Dancing (1970) is pleasingly fluid, crisply antique. The London Chamber Ensemble play with exemplary reciprocity, conviction and persuasive charm throughout.
–Michael Quinn