Grace Williams (1906-1977)



This year marks the centenary of the birth of Grace Williams, the most significant Welsh composer of her generation, and a maverick voice in 20th century British music. During her lifetime she was criticised for a lyrical style that was out of step with fashionable trends, and subsequently her work has fallen into the sort of posthumous lull that has befallen many great composers.

Donald Macleod visits South Wales to begin a week tracing the course of Grace Williams' life and music, talking to those who knew her, including Welsh musicologists Heward Rees and Rhiannon Mathias.

Yr Eos, The Nightingale

Stephen Betteridge (piano)

BBC Singers

Ronald Corp (conductor)

Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes

London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Charles Groves (conductor)

Violin Concerto

Matthew Trusler (violin)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Jason Lai (conductor)

Watching the Wheat

Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)

Iain Burnside (piano).


The poet RS Thomas once wrote that to live in Wales is to be conscious at dusk of the spilled blood that went to the making of the wild sky - a line that evokes the sense of visceral connection to their homelands which Celtic people often seem to have. Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the work of Grace Williams, talking to musicologists Heward Rees and Rhiannon Mathias about some of the ways in which her music emerges from the Welsh landscape in which she lived.

Severn Bridge Variation

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Jac Van Steen (conductor)

Sinfonia concertante

Huw Watkins (piano)

Baldur Brönimann (conductor)

My Last Duchess

Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)

Iain Burnside (piano)

Rhosyn Duw

BBC Singers

Ronald Corp (conductor).

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Donald Macleod concludes the week of programmes on Grace Williams by talking to Welsh musicologists Rhiannon Mathias and Heward Rees, soprano Janet Price and composer Geraint Lewis about themes of peace, yearning, love and parting in Grace Williams' music.

Peace, from Six Gerard Manley Hopkins Poems

Helen Watts (contralto)

Simon Standage and Elizabeth Shenton (violin)

Richard Williamson and Simon Whistler (viola)

John Heley and Shuna Wilson (cello)

Ballads for Orchestra

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Baldur Brönimann (conductor)


Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)

Iain Burnside (piano)

Fairest of Stars

Janet Price (soprano)

London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Charles Groves (conductor).