Magazine article Musical Opinion

Robin Walker: Orchestral Music

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Robin Walker: Orchestral Music

Article excerpt

Robin Walker: Orchestral Music

Great Rock is Dead: Funeral March; The Stone Maker: Symphonic Poem; The Stone King: Symphonic Poem; Odysseus on Ogygia: Prelude Novaya Rossiya Symphony Orchestra/ Alexander Walker

***** Toccata Classics TOCC 0283

I have known Robin Walker and his music for 40 years. When I first met him as a young man he was a committed modernist, trained in serialism at Durham University by David Lumsdaine, though already showing remarkable individuality. He taught at Manchester University in the 1980s, but resigned his post in 1987, in the conviction that academic life was inimical to the natural development of his musical language. He moved to a small Pennine village, and later to a farmhouse above Todmorden, in order to devote himself to full-time composition. At the same time he renounced modernism in favour of what he describes as 'modal chromaticism', a language strongly grounded in tonality. His music is still known to few people, but I believe that the orchestral works on this CD show that it surpasses most of what is being written today.

If this sounds too large a claim, start with The Stone King, composed in 2005. Straightaway we are plunged into a world that recalls Wagner or Sibelius: the music is grand, noble, heroic - words hardly ever applied to anything written today. Within its eleven-minute duration there are two huge, surging climaxes, where tonality is used with all its old power. It ends, after a long, eloquent solo for euphonium (one of Walker's favourite instruments), with a completely fresh look at C major. There is no hint of anything like film music. Walker can write like this because he believes absolutely in the values he has struggled so long to achieve. His re-creation of real tonal music - no post-modernist promiscuity here - is an extraordinary achievement.

The two other shorter pieces on the CD, the funeral march Great Rock is Dead (2007) and the Prelude to Odysseus on Ogygia (2011) - the first of a trilogy of operas of Wagnerian size and substance based on Homer's Odyssey on which Walker has been working for 20 years - are in a similar language to The Stone King, the brooding funeral march ending with a tremendous outburst of D major. …

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