Reviewed by James Nightingale
The American composer George Walker lived a long life, passing in 2018 at the age of 96. Only in his later life did Walker receive the acclaim that his talents deserved, and it was in 1996 that he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music, the first African American to receive the award. He continued composing throughout his later years, and the five sinfonias featured on this new recording from the National Symphony Orchestra, dated from 1984 to 2018. Walker embraced a style that encompassed European modernism, and these sinfonias are spiky, strident, and rhythmically acute works.
I still hear them as American, reminding me of Copland and Bernstein as well as Hollywood film scores. The performances of the National Symphony Orchestra are remarkable, imbued with a commitment to conveying this extraordinary music. This commitment is especially present in the Sinfonia no 5, where four vocalists interject a message of truth, acknowledgement and respect. This is a work of righteous, positive anger that is both humbling and inspiring.