1st performance, Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, October 1961, Geraint Jones Orchestra –
“Gareth Walters’ Elegy is a one-movement work consisting of a number of “stanzas” each of which is a variation of the first. But the work is a cohesive whole, expressive of deep feeling, instantly appealing in its confluence of harmonies, poignant in its climax and truly elegiac in quality….. Harmonically it is beautifully shaped and the whole work has an ardent quality and indeed a note of philosophic maturity which marks an important stage in the development of this very considerable composer.” (Froom Tyler, South Wales Evening Post)
“The work is one which carries an expression of craftsmanship and deep thought…..As the musical development unfolds so does a strong emotional interest which becomes the more tense because of the precision with which the composer has concentrated his thoughts. Gareth Walters’ musical style is always lyrical and this lyricism is retained even when the subject matter is so closely interwoven as here, but in the Elegy the sense of poetic feelings springs not only from this characteristic, but from the construction of the work, since the composer has regarded each variation in the same way as a poet would regard the stanza of a work of poetry. The Elegy is a work of maturity and style.” (Kenneth Loveland, South Wales Argus)
“In Gareth Walters’ Elegy for Strings, which reflects his creative genius, the orchestra gave a moving performance”. (Western Mail)
2. Divertimento for Strings Commissioned by BBC Wales, first performance in a BBC broadcast 1960.
Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, October 1961, Hallé Orchestra
“ Gareth Walters has used Welsh traditional melodic elements as Bartók has used Hungarian, germinally rather than as stated themes. Only in the fourth movement, a lovely largo, is the Welsh tune ‘Lisa Lân’ used at length, and it provides an opportunity for most appealing cantabile writing with an unmistakeable Welsh flavour. The final allegro, opening with attractive opposed rhythms for violas and cellos, is full of interest. Indeed, the whole work, which was commissioned by the BBC (Wales) two years ago and which has been published by the Oxford University Press, has originality, musicianly interest and charm…” (South Wales Evening Post)
“The Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Hugo Rignold, were again in magnificent form. The Welsh composer Gareth Walters’ Divertimento for Strings I found full of inventiveness. The weaving and counter-weaving of the lesser known traditional Welsh tunes revealed his imaginative genius. The Hallé strings gave a fine rendering of this beautifully designed work.” (Western Mail)
3. Sinfonia Breve, first performance by the Warsaw Radio Orchestra, August 1961.
BBC Festival of Welsh Music, BBC Welsh Orchestra –
“In the unleashed energy of the opening movement of this work, as in the deep harmonic thought of the beautifully integrated adagio, Gareth Walters shows a quite remarkable mastery of the string orchestra. It is a work of fine seriousness and warmth of feeling. Its developments are handled with unfailing expertness – and the great thing is the composer has something to say.” (South Wales Evening Post)
London Concertanti, Fulham Town Hall, October 1964 –
“The higher standard of playing achieved here was confirmed in a fine reading of Gareth Walters’ Sinfonia Breve, an impressive piece in a Bartókian idiom.” (Anthony Payne, Music and Musicians)
“The main influence in the Walters work is Bartók, and the first movement in particular manages to anglicise the Hungarian accent while keeping vigour and memorability.” (Edward Greenfield, The Guardian)
4. A Gwent Suite Commissioned for the Monmouthshire County Youth Orchestra 1961.
“The string harmonies are graciously textured, and the woodwind writing is lyrical and shapely, especially in the exposed passages for the clarinet. The rhythms are lively and animated, and the music will be a valuable addition to the repertoire.” (South Wales Argus)
5. Salm y Genedl Commissioned for the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales 1970.
“…a vigorous piece, solid in construction and well knit, reflecting thoughtfully the philosophy of the verses on which it is based….The choral writing throughout is forceful, profusely contrapuntal, lyrical in the few moments of repose, and attractively harmonised….The work emphasises the composer’s versatility, while, at the same time, confirming his flair for conveying the content and sentiment of literary imagery.” (South Wales Argus)
6. Cân y Galon Commissioned by BBC Wales 1970.
BBC St. David’s Festival, Cardiff, 1970, Mary Thomas (soprano) –
“Gareth Walters’ song cycle Cân y Galon (Song of the Heart), a setting of five Welsh poems about love, emphasises once again the professional versatility of this composer….The heart of the work is passionately lyrical and the texture richly contrapuntal. This is what gives the work its wealth of colour. Mr. Walters entwines voice and instruments in a stylishly worked mosaic of sound. The vocal line has moments of considerable allure, and, rare in much vocal music today, sounds immensely singable.” (South Wales Argus)
7. Poésies du Soir
BBC Welsh Orchestra (1964), conductor Sir Adrian Boult, Margaret Price (soprano) –
“If Welsh composition is to mature and develop, then it must seek some of its literary and musical inspiration from outside Wales, and Gareth Walters is a striking example of a composer who is successfully doing just that. It is this assimilation of other influences into his own individuality which makes him so interesting a composer….The song cycle was written for Margaret Price, and shows a gracious feeling for the French nasal sound, and for the texture of French consonants. Miss Price sang it with great intelligence……She has a gift for grasping the spirit of words…. these are early days in her career.” (South Wales Argus)
8. Sonata for cello and piano Commissioned by the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music.
First performance, Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, 1971 –
“…its spring-like freshness is evident from the energetic start which leads to a warm, passionate legato line for the cello with considerable lyrical appeal….George Isaac and Valerie Tryon played this first performance with dedication, technical mastery and an acute sense of the sonata’s expressive power.” (South Wales Evening Post)
“The fluent lyricism with which the composer is regularly credited is everywhere apparent and serves him well.” (South Wales Argus)
9. The Lamb (two-part female voice choir and piano)
“Undaunted by existing settings, Gareth Walters gives us a fresh take on Blake’s famous poem, The Lamb. This expressive piece for SA and piano is very touching and might be a welcome change from over-used alternative versions.” (Music Teacher, 2006)
10. CD: “Song of the Heart” – all music by Gareth Walters
(Toccata Classics 2008. TOCC 0090)
Cân y Galon (Song of the Heart); Little Suite for Flute and Harp; Violin Sonata; Berceuse for harp; Poésies du soir (Poems of the Evening).
“This selection of his chamber music…convinces me that he is a composer of real talent and mastery…..one senses a purpose moving through the songs (Cân y Galon): the quartet writing is idiomatic and Caroline Foulkes’s clear and bright soprano floats across the top….The music is largely reflective and very attractive and is authoritatively played. I enjoyed this disc enormously and recommend it wholeheartedly”. (International Record Review 2010, Peter Marchbank)
“It is a pleasure to hear the music of Gareth Walters again …a worthy introduction for those who have not heard his songs and chamber pieces. All this deserves a firm place in the CD library”. (Music and Vision Daily 2010, Patric Standford)
“…… After three hearings, the disc may well find itself on my year-end Want List because it has brought me so much pleasure. Walters received encouragement from Britten, and may well have been influenced to some degree by that English master, but it is clear that his strongest influence came from the time he spent in Paris at the Conservatoire, studying with Jean Rivier and Olivier Messiaen. Much of the music on this disc has the clear stamps of Ravel and Debussy (more the former than the latter) in its DNA. That is not to imply that Walters imitates—but his sound world clearly reflects his time in France and his love for Ravel and Debussy. In his accompanying notes for this recording …… the composer writes about his studies with Messiaen, and Messiaen’s “quiet enthusiasm” for the piano music of Ravel and Debussy.
The descriptives that come to mind while listening to this music are “exquisite,” “ethereal,” and most of all “lovely.” The Violin Sonata seems to me to have echoes of Fauré (again not imitation, just echoes). The vocal works, Song of the Heart and Poems of the Evening, are particularly successful. Walters has a real feel for how to set words, and for the voice, and these cycles would sit comfortably in the repertoire of any major singer, if the major singers were only adventurous enough to find them. …….. Song of the Heart is a setting of five Welsh poems for soprano and string quartet, and the score is ravishing. Poems of the Evening was composed for a young Margaret Price in 1961, when the soon-to-be famous soprano was still a mezzo. She sang the cycle on a number of occasions, but did not leave any recordings. Three evocative French poems are set beautifully in this cycle for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra.
The violin sonata was, according to the composer’s own notes, “re-drafted from an earlier work in 1989,” but wasn’t finalized until 1996. It is the longest work on the disc, at almost 25 minutes, and it wears its length well. The heart of the piece is a deeply felt Lento, music that draws the listener into it and holds the attention. Paul A. Snook has reviewed individual works of Walters on prior discs in Fanfare…… He has been consistently enthusiastic about this composer, and now I understand why.”
(FANFARE classical music magazine 2013, Henry Fogel)
(Copyright 1977-2013 by Fanfare Inc.)
“…… well-deserved praise for a CD of the music of Gareth Walters (b. 1928) that the Toccata Classics label released several years ago (TOCC 0090). On offer are two song cycles and some chamber music. When first listening to Song of the Heart for soprano and string quartet, I wondered if the soprano was having trouble with her diction. I finally looked at the lyrics in the CD booklet and discovered the songs are in Welsh.
While the language may be Welsh, the sensibility is thoroughly French. It turns out that Walters studied in Paris with Jean Rivier and Olivier Messiaen. He obviously ingested the salutary influences of Debussy and Ravel, as well. The second song cycle presented here, Poésies du soir for mezzo soprano and chamber orchestra, is in French, something even I was able to grasp without looking at the lyrics. In either case, these are beautifully and expertly set songs. The quartet writing is highly expressive – in fact, exquisite. For instance, in the third Welsh song, the cello sings the bass line in the song. It is every bit a vocal participant as the soprano. Walters makes all his instruments sing. Then there are the enchanting Little Suite for Flute and Harp and the Berceuse for harp that both could easily pass for French in their charm. The longest work on this CD is a substantial Violin Sonata (24:54) that shows that Walters is not only a sophisticated jeweler but can sustain the longer line of larger musical forms. What expertly-made, fluent, lively music this is. If you care for the works of Ravel, don’t hesitate here. Why is there not more of Walters’ civilized music available?”
(c. Musica (USA) July 2012, Robert R. Reilly)
11. CD: British String Miniatures Volume 1, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conductor Gavin Sutherland. (ASV WHL 2134)
Divertimento for Strings (Gareth Walters)
“We open with a most ingratiatingly fluent Divertimento of 1960 by the Welsh-born Gareth Walters (b. 1928). Though derived in part from folk materials, this work is couched in the urbane and unmistakably mid-century idiom of English non-commercial light music, and chockfull of winsome tunes stylishly outfitted with glamorous flair……it makes one long for further exposure to this talented composer’s catalog (there is a superb Sinfonia Breve)….. Both the Walters and the Addison make this disc a genuine gem.”
(Fanfare magazine 2003, Paul A. Snook)
(Copyright 1977-2013 by Fanfare Inc.)
12. CD: British String Miniatures Volume 3, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conductor Gavin Sutherland. (ASV WHL 2139)
Sinfonia Breve (Gareth Walters)
“Though as attractive and as superbly written as any other work here, his (Gareth Walters’) marvellous Sinfonia Breve ….is in a quite different league. In spite of its title, this is a major work cast in a rather more astringent idiom, redolent of Bartók and Honegger rather than of Vaughan Williams or Delius. It is a deeply serious work with much virile string writing, tensely dramatic at times. A minor masterpiece that definitely deserves to be better known …. Thoroughly enjoyable with the added bonus of a wonderful work, Walters’ Sinfonia Breve.”
(MusicWeb U.K. October 2003, Hubert Culot)
“….we come to the pièce de résistance, a Sinfonia Breve …. by the Welshman Gareth Walters (b. 1928), This three-movement score is far from a “miniature” but a sophisticated and very skilfully executed investigation of the string medium by a composer who, while retaining his British inflections, is well aware of the modes and methods of Hindemith and Bartók. Walters writes fetchingly intelligent music, as this work and the Divertimento for Strings on an earlier release in this series make clear.”
(Fanfare magazine 2004, Paul A. Snook)
(Copyright 1977-2013 by Fanfare Inc.)
13. CD: Welsh Classical Favourites, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conductor Andrew Penny. (Marco Polo 8.225048)
Overture Primavera and A Gwent Suite (Gareth Walters)
“Gareth Walters (b.1928)…. is one of the most skilful and multi-faceted members of his generation…..and the two works here included display different and complementary aspects of his winning personality. The Primavera Overture is a very sprightly Malcolm Arnoldish clarion call, while the more thoughtful Gwent Suite (based on actual local folk tunes) shows, especially in its penultimate Lento movement, his capacity for a darkly passionate lyricism.”
(Fanfare magazine 2000, Paul A. Snook)
(Copyright 1977-2013 by Fanfare Inc.)