Monday, March 03, 2003

[96.1] MALCOLM WILLIAMSON, 1931-2002

It was sad to hear the news this morning of the death in Cambridge yesterday of Sydney-born composer Malcolm Williamson [excellent MusicWeb biog and appreciation here]. He was alternately a traditionalist and an innovator. He leaves behind a body of work that will charm and intrigue people in years to come. It seems only recently that I was at London's Wigmore Hall for his 70th birthday celebration (April 2001, in fact) - a set of cameos derived from chamber and vocal works interspersed with miniatures from musical colleagues. The affection and esteem was considerable. Williamson was also an organist of note and delightfully erratic in his delivery (and, occasionally, non-delivery) of music for Royal occasions.

It will be intriguing to see what happens to the increasingly anachronistic post of Master of the Queen's Music now. Will it go to an older or newer generation composer, for a start? As usual, extraneous factors (such as being anti-establishment, an atheist, 'too intellectual' or just too darned credible) will rule out the obvious front-rankers such as Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle (what fun that would be!), Knussen and Turnage. Perhaps James MacMillan (a Catholic, a bit radical, writes tunes but isn't backward looking) would be a sage choice for the Royal makeover team? And what about glimmeringly, gaily talented Thomas Ades? There's an ecumenical test for Mrs Windsor... expect a second-tier choice from the RCCM.

Further Williamson links: MVDaily, Australian Music Centre.

No comments: