Portrait of Graham Waterhouse

An appealing collection by a composer in the great British string tradition

Author: 
Ivan March

Portrait of Graham Waterhouse

  • Chieftain's Salute
  • Sinfonietta
  • Mouvements d'Harmonie
  • Celtic Voices
  • Hymnus
  • Hale Bopp
  • Jig, Air and Reel

A most stimulating collection and, for me, another satisfying new composer with a distinctive soundworld. Graham Waterhouse (the son of the bassoonist, William) writes within the tradition of English string music in a style that is diatonic but with stimulating, pungent textures. The concise Sinfonietta is initially athletic and astringent, the Adagio then neo-Romantic, the Scherzo a fiddle-dominated folk dance, and the finale a moto perpetuo in 12/8 time.

Celtic Voices similarly balances virtuosity with lyricism and dips into the Phrygian mode to establish its underlying harmonic flavour. Hale Bopp celebrates the appearance of the comet in 1997, at first mystically, later sug-gesting increasing momentum. It incorporates an atmospheric setting of ‘How brightly shines the Morning Star’, sung in the distance by a treble and acccompanied by a string quartet.

Waterhouse’s writing for woodwind and horns in the Mouvements d’Harmonie has a tangy, 20th-century Gallic flavour. The solemn sonorities of Hymnus are also haunting; the chorale itself recalls a famous carol. But the novelty here is the opening Chieftain’s Salute, which would bring the house down at a BBC Prom – a concertante work for ‘great highland bagpipe’ (marvellously played by Graham Waller) and strings. After an introductory ‘Scottish Snap’, the piper moves through a set of variations on the 17th-century lament, Lady Doyle’s Salute with increasing complex figurations.

The disc ends with simple arrangements of three folk tunes, Roger de Coverley, the ravish-ing Star of the County Down and Devil among the Tailors. First-class playing throughout and excellent recording, bright but in an attractively spacious acoustic. I urge you to hear this rewarding CD – you won’t be disappointed.

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