William Wallace: Creation Symphony; Pelléas and Mélisande; Prelude to The Eumenides / Brabbins, BBC Scottish SO


If you missed this album of Scottish composer William Wallace's orchestral music when it was first issued by Hyperion in the late '90s, you have another chance to obtain it with this reissue on the label's mid-price Helios line - at about half the price of the original. These are the world-premiere recordings of three works, the major one being Wallace's Creation Symphony in C sharp minor. Begun in 1896 and first performed in 1899, it's a substantial piece for large orchestra, resembling traditional symphonic form in little more than the fact that it is in four movements. The other two pieces are the Prelude to The Eumenides of Aeschytus and the Pelléas and Mélisande suite.

William Wallace (1860-1940) studied medicine in Edinburgh and Glasgow before specializing in ophthalmology at Vienna and Paris. However, the draw of music was too strong on the young Wallace and shortly after graduation he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London. Nevertheless he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the war, overseeing thousands of cases and ultimately attaining the rank of Captain. After the war, he returned to music, becoming Dean of the Music Faculty at London University, teaching, composing and writing on music.

Wallace worked extensively in the symphonic poem and concert overture genres; in fact, most of his compositions are for orchestra, in addition to some for chorus and for solo voice. In both form and expression, his music was greatly influenced by Franz Liszt, and by Richard Wagner in his use of leitmotifs and chromatic harmonies. This is unmistakable in the album sample you can hear in the right sidebar video, The Love of Pelléas for Mélisande from the suite.

This is the second disc from these forces of Wallace's orchestral music. The earlier one, also a recommendation on Expedition Audio (HYP 55461), highlights Wallace's symphonic poems. In these vibrant and commanding performances by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Martyn Brabbins, Wallace's impressive music sounds even larger than itself.