Redcliffe Recordings RRO1l   (Recorded 1996)

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BRITISH CHORAL MUSIC

PRIAULX RAINIER (1903-1986)
Requiem (1956) 23'

FRANCIS ROUTH (1927-)
On a Deserted Shore (1975) 40'12':
Andante
Allegro
Vivace
Passacaglia, Andante maestoso

ALAN RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Three Partsongs
A Rose for Lidice (1956)
TheOxen(1965)
Canzonet (1953)


NATIONAL YOUTH CHOIR of Great Britain
NATIONAL YOUTH CHAMBER CHOIR
Eileen Hulse soprano Mark Wilde tenor
REDCLIFFE ENSEMBLE
Andrew Ball piano  Francis Routh piano
Stephen Gibson   Sacha Johnson Matthew Rich  percussion
conductor Michael Brewer
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© 1996 Redcliffe Recordings


PRIAULX RAINIER (1903 - 1986)

Requiem for tenor solo and unaccompanied choir

Text by David Gascoyne

Most Requiems are for the departed; some, like that of Brahms, are for those who survive. This is for neither. Instead it looks not backwards, but forwards, to the prospective victims of the world's lost ideals and hopes in the Second World War that was to come.
The poem was written specifically for Priaulx Rainier in 1938-40 by David Gascoyne, with a choral setting in mind. He had been a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral, and met Rainier in Paris in 1937, where she had gone for some lessons with Nadia Boulanger. The composition of Requiem took many years, and it was not performed until 16 April 1956 at the V & A Museum in London, when it was first song by Peter Pears, and the Purcell Singers conducted by Imogen Holst. Its three parts are subdivided into 19 short sections, which alternate between chorus, semi-chorus, solo tenor integrated with the chorus in concertante style, and solo tenor in dramatic recitative, forming the link between sections.
The words are full of the unrealised yearning of the human spirit for the becoming of the Whole. Terms which frequently recur are 'hidden', 'invisible', 'buried', 'concealed'. In Part I the poet sees mankind in darkness; blind, as we wait 'in the great Park of crumbling monuments that is the World.' In Part II, clues which present themselves' to those who long for Thee' prove to be illusory. A figure with a gleamirig chalice 'was not thy Angel'; an echo in a distant mountain cave 'was not thy voice'. In Part III human life is shown as 'glorious and vain'. Like a seed which is first buried, then nurtured until it finally springs into flower, we can only aspire to that 'core of glory' when our eyes are opened in death.
The music matches the words absolutely; in mood, as it aspires to a world beyond reach, and in the speech-rhythm with which the words are pointed and articulated. The choir sing together throughout, homophonically, and the melodic lines extend the tonal boundaries in a way that was new in British music; now in chords, now in unison; now in sections, now full. The pivotal note of Rainier's scale is the tritone. From this the music derives an ambiguous tonal inflection which gives a fresh source of colour and movement, occasionally coming to rest on a chord of explicit tonality, or a unison. The choir sections moreover are balanced and matched by the recitative of the solo tenor in a way that somewhat recalls the traditional sryle of plainsong.
The work displays a grandeur and eloquence that are unique. In the unfolding of Rainier's style it represents the end of a period. In it she uses the triad for the last time to any great extent; moreover it is the only choral work in her output.

Part I
1
Voice
O hidden Face! O gaze
fixed on us from afar and that we cannot meet:
Grant us who wait
in the great Park of crumbling monuments
that is the World,
that we may meet at last those eyes
in which black fires burn back to white with
perfect clearness,
and not blurred by fever or heat
nor in the sudden spasm of disintegrating fear
that rends the breasts of beasts and blinds the
blind and undefined.
And instruct us how to ripen unto thee.
3
Voice
Thy light is like a darkness and Thy joy is
found through grief.
And those who search for Thee shall find
Thee not.
And hidden in Thy mouth the blinding
benediction of the final phrase
which shall not fall upon a listening ear.
2
Choir
Hearts are unripe and spirits light as straw ,
that in thy light shall kindle like the straw and
flare to nothing on an instant breath of smoke.
4
Choir
For they who listen at the secret door hear
only their own heart beat out its fault.

Part II
5
Voice
In the great Park a wanderer at sundown
by the weeping falls of pallid spume and high
prismatic spray
once saw from across the water in the last
illusive light
a figure with a gleaming chalice come...
8
choir
But it was not Thy Voice!
9
Voice
For silent and invisible are all Thy works
and hidden in the depths midway between
desire and fear
And they who long for Thee and are afraid of Life
arid they who fear the clear stroke of Thy knife
obsessed with the pale shadows of themselves,

shall lose full sight and understanding of that
final mystery.
6
choir
But it was not Thy Angel!
7

Voice

And another heard a warning echo in a
mountain cave
reverberant with distance and the undertone
of guilt...

Part III
10
choir
Tenebral treasure and immortal flower,
and flower of immortal Death!
O silent white extent of skyless sky
the wingless flight and the long flawless cry
of aspiration endlessly!
15
voice
The seed springs from us into flower,
yet none can tell at what hour late or early
those concealed furled leaves and
multifoliate petals
shall outgrow their tender shell.
11
Voice
The seed is buried in us like a memory;
the seed is hidden from us like the omnipresent
Eye:
it grows within us through Time's flux both
night and day.
16
Choir
The hour is unknown:
The hour endures:
The hour strikes every hour.
12
Choir
Darkness that bums like light,
black light and essence of all radiance.
O depth beyond confusion sunk.
The timeless nadir at the heart of Time
where all creative and destructive forces meet!
17
Voice
Each hour of life is glorious and vain.
O thirst and
glorious unsatisfied lamenting cry!
How vain the short relief
And unabiding refuge from the tide
That nearer crawls each day across the sands
on which our house is founded!
Vanity of vanities all things held by our hands.
13

Voice

The seed is nurtured by involuntary tears;
by blood shed from Love's inmost wounds
its roots are fed by the concealed corruption
of unknown desires.
14
Choir
We cannot hear or see not say the name;
there is no light or shade,
nor place nor time
no movement, no repose,
but only perfect prescience of the
Becoming of the Whole.
18
Choir
Voice
Beyond their reach with diamond rays
and high above the furthest fields of aether
lies the core of glory
only ascertained by inward opening of Death's
deep eye;
and outward flight of Spirit long sustained.
19
choir
By wings the swift flames of the funeral pile
are fanned.
Dead faces guard a secret smile.

Text reprinted from Selected Poems, with the permission of Enitharmon Press, London


FRANCIS ROUTH (1927-)

On A Deserted Shore

Text by Kathleen Raine for soprano solo, double choir, semi-chorus, two pianos and percussion

On a Deserted Shore is a lament on the death of a loved one. 50 verses were selected from the 130 short love-poems which make up Raine's original sequence, to form a choral suite in four movements. The solo soprano is the voice of the bereaved one, the poet; the trio of the semi-chorus, who sing always together, never separately, represent an extension of her thoughts; the choir represent humanity as a whole.
The underlying mood, set at the opening, is sorrow, mystery, quietness, joy. 'There is an intensely subjective association of ideas in the poet's imagery, and her poems echo with the resonance of Western and Eastern literatures and religions. Her setting is the recognisable, magic landscape of Western Scotland, but these Northern regions soon dissolve into the seas, shores and mountains of legend. A specific rowan tree soon changes into
          'that great tree'
with 'blossoming boughs where birds of heaven rest.'
Indeed the imagery of birds recurs, dream-like, to symbolise the sours journey to Paradise, that
          'far flight beyond earth's dwindling star.'

I

The opening movement is sustained by two main motifs. The first, heard in the opening phrase of the soloist, represents sorrow, for which the tonahry (E) is coloured not only by the tritone (A sharp) but the interplay of F natural/F sharp, the next two notes of the scale. This mood is further enhanced by an insistent background drum-beat. The second motif, introduced by the gentler marimba, follows immediatel and represents the transient joy of the dreamer, as the choir sing

'From the hollow sphere of space
Echo of a lonely voice
That cries, my love, my love.'

In the middle section the music moves to a moment of dream-like sublimity, as all the voices, without the soloist, sing

the blessed dead...
They hear as music what we feel as pain'

Thereafter both motifs recur, and at the end of the movement the music dies away as it began, unresolved.

III

The second movement is a continuation of the first and is also built on two motifs. The F natural/F sharp feature of the 'sorrow' motif is here transferred to the pianos and timpani, whose tread-like pulse suggests 'journeying'. The idea of 'Lost Paradi se' forms the other motif, and consists of simple pia no chords over an F sharp pedal, set against a sustained  tam tam vibrato, while the soprano solo moves with a stepwise melody, as if hesitantly.

Once more the middle section is given over to the choir whose music dies away to the words

'The last sorrow silent-
Forgeness that feels no loss...
When deepest memories fade
And all love's tears are dust.'

Both motifisrecur before the movement dissolves.

III

The choir sing a hymn to Nature, short, and with violence just beneath a calm surface. The two pianos are contrasted, and the agitated vigour of one, with a scherzo-like forward movement, in triple metre, vivace, is complemented by the steady, low-pitched sonoriry of the other, enhanced by the timpani, and suffusing the music with darkness, like the

'shadow of hills on the still loch.'

IV

The final passacaglia follows without a break. The ground bass on which it is built is nothing less than the sorrow motif of the first movement, but more drawn out, with less rate of harmonic change, and this time reaching resolution on the final note F sharp. This music opens with a lament for the soloist, answering in some way the previous chorus

'I would not change my grief for any joy.'

The expected flow of the passacaglia variations is interrupted with an anguished cry - bitter too, perhaps

'If I could turn upon my finger
The bright ring of time,
The now of then I would bring back again.'

This mood is characterised by the side-drum and xylophone, suggestive of mockery. Between the two statements of this scherzo-like parody, the choir sing in broad, calm homophony, made up of chords with open intervals

'Beyond the empty door
Spaces, distances, stars innumerable.'

So the variations resume their course, and the final section of the movement builds a massive structure, beginning with the semi-chorus to the words

'Not sorrow breaks the heart But an imagined joy.'

The poet sees in a bird's flight the symbol of a passing human soul, and all the participating singers are involved as this final dream-like section of the symphony for voices moves forward to a climactic, resolving shout on the words

'Near and far. Summit and sky, soaring wing, circling joy, Thrilling bird-voice over the bay, You their bright presence, Dazzle of blue waves' dance, Gold of the silver sea'

After the climax, the coda. The solo soprano is left alone by the graveside as the music dies sway to nothingness.

On a Deserted Shore was first performed in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, on 8 December 1975, when the soloist was Felicity Lott, with the BBC Singers and the Reddcliffe Ensemble, conducted by John Poole.

I
Solo Where my treasure is
A grave:
My heart also
Empty.
Ch. We do not hear the harmony
That sounds about us everywhere;
Sense bleeds on iron and thoms
Of rock and fire
Until death breaks the elemental forn
To free the music of the spheres
That builds all worlds continually.
V.13
Semi Ch Sorrow
Is its own place, a glass
Of memories and dreams; a pool
Of tears. Narcissus pale
Sees his own drowning face.
Ch.
Semi Ch
They pass into that music:
I too in sleep have heard
The harmony sublime
And known myself among the blessed dead,
Ch. We cannot walk the waves they tread
For the earth of heaven is sound,
To sense this stony ground:
They hear as music what we feel as pain

V.14
Ch.
Solo
From the hollow sphere of space
Echo
Of a lonely voice
That cries, my love, my love:
I do not know
Whether I spoke or heard
The word
That fills all silence.
V.2 Solo Rigid, naked, pale -
Where now your abiding-place,
Gentle wandering soul?
V.20
Solo I cannot weep
Who, when I turn to you in thought
Behold a mystery so deep,
A world upheld upon a breath
That comes in life and goes in death
Troubling dark leaves upon a starry bough.
Who dreams our lives I do not know,
Nor in what land it is we meet.
V.5 Ch. Love in part remembers,
But who we are,
And where before our eyes had met
In soul's far wanderings
What is that glory we forget?
V.22
Ch.
Solo
Memory: beyond recall
The linnet's song,
The clover-scented air;
Yet we were there,
My love and I together in one house.
Home is the sum of all
The days that sheltered us;
The place of no retum.
V.6 Solo So far -
Out of the night
We travelled, you and I,
To meet on this small star.
Our chosen fate,
Our. meed and sole desire
All we have lost.

V.24
Ch. We who from day to day depart
From the country of the heart
In death retum
To the fields our feet have travelled,
our tears sown:

V.12 Ch. Mountain and tree and bird,
Solo And that pure stream -
How beautifully the world
Mirrored back to us
An ancient dream:
The dreamer gone,
Nature an empty glass.
V.33
Semi Ch Sleeper beneath the rowan tree,
You have become your dream
Sky, shore and silver sea.
Solo
Semi Ch
Away, Away,
Unhealing time,
Since you can bring no day
When my love and I,
Though I should wait life-long
On lonely shores,
Can meet again.
V.34
Solo Banished from that bright dream
Of the heart's truth,
Betrayed by all that we have done
and been,
Sorrow still keeps faith.

II
Solo How many buried hearts
Instruct me when I speak
Of that long pilgrimage
The soul must walk
On bleeding feet
Who has in folly lost
One whom in bitter after-wisdom she
must seek.
v.41 They shall be comforted, he said,
Who sent the comforter
To those who mourned him, dead:
What comfort could he send,
He being crucified,
Unless himself, who died?
v.48
Semi Ch So many scattered leaves
The Sibyl shakes
From the living tree.
Gather who will her oracles,
Believe who may -
All truths are lies
Save love to love in love replies.

v.42 The last sorrow silent
Forgetfulness
That feels no loss,
No hope discerns,
Saddest impoverishment
When deepest memories fade
And all love's tears are dust.
v.49
Solo Lost Paradise
With all its trees adrift
In the great flood of night,
And I live yet
Not knowing where in emptiness
Landfall lies.
v.43 Solo Time was
When each to other was a glass,
And I in you and you in me beheld
Lost Paradise,
With every tree and bird so clear
Regained it seemed:
We did not guess how far
From the heart's mirror the reflected star.
v.51
Solo
Semi Ch
A night in a bad inn -
But I would say
Guest in love's house;
And blessed and thrice blest
Who walk on earth's sweet grass,
Bathe in time's stream,
And under green boughs rest -
Too short a stay.

v.44 Semi Ch Illusion all -
Yet where for us the real
Unless what seems?
These cloud-tapped towers
More durable than brass
Our dreams
.
v.52
Solo For the beat of a heart
A world, a dream endures,
Yet on this earth we met,
And every stone is dear
That wounds love's pilgrim feet
Walking the way of time's
Six thousand years.
v.45 Solo Silence of the dead;
The untold:
What would you have me say?
Dear love, when we on earth kept
house together
Were you then this mystery?
v.57
Ch. Strange bird across my evening sky -    
Who, passing soul, your guide
On that far flight
Beyond earth's dwindling star?
With certainty of strong desire
You wing your traceless way
Into harbourless night.
v.47 Semi Ch      If fancy cannot cheat
The fevered flesh, the aching heart,
Can sense the dream
With lineaments of dust?
From Paradise
The bird's undying voice
Sings on.
v.58

III

Ch.

Shadow of hills on the still loch, mysterious
Inviolate green land, whose sun is cool
as water,
Whose stones bruise not,
Seems soul's native place, this weary road
The dark country in a glass.
v.78 Flash again, golden wing,
Across my sterile plot,
Seeking in vain
Similitude of glade and dell.
Where human passions dwell
Few flowers spring,
Too far from that remembered hill.
v.80
Your garment cast away,
This body's clay
The grave that shrouds from sight
The man of light,
Bright, but how far you are
.
v.79      
If I could wake
From bitter life as from a dream,
In innocence new-bom
To see the first day break,
The promise of the eternal dawn
Would bear your name.
v.81

IV (Passacaglia)
Solo I would not change my grief
For any joy:
Sorrow the secret bond
The signature of blood
That seals to you my life
Indissolubly.
v.60 Solo Ended my earthly day,
And with averted face
I from your graveside rum away Into a veiled, a secret place.

v.104
Dark stream.
I did not know
When to your brink I came
How full your flow
Of the world's sorrow:
I dip my cup and drink.
v.66 Over your mountain isle
Streaming cloud
Shrouds the sunset:
A shawl drawn close
Over a mourner's head.
v.105
Hearts memories
Rooms I cannot enter more,
Green ways by the water:
Joy once ours
Sings in the wind that stirs the grass.
v.71 Semi Ch Not sorrow breaks the heart
But an imagined joy
So dear it cannot be
But we have elsewhere known
The lost estate we mourn.

v.111
Memories: shrivelled leaves
To keep or throw away.
Love cannot piece by piece
Remake the felled tree.
v.84 Solo Blue serene wide sky
Where sight runs free, joy
Of unbounded light:
It is as if we meet.
v.115
Semi Ch

Solo

From your grave-side
All ways lead away
And time is long, my love,
And memories fade,
Old hearts grow cold:
Must I too break faith
With joy?
v.85 Semi Ch Somewhere, it seems,
You who walk with me in sleep;
But in the sand of dreams
Your passing leaves no trace
To follow or find that place.
v.121
If I could turn
Upon my finger the bright ring of time,
The now of then
I would bring back again.
v.97 Solo If I could follow you,
How find?
In numbers starry flow
Of all night's multitude, what lot
Once cast us heart to heart?
v.122
Since smoke rose from your pyre
All clouds are dear; but how
Among those vague bright forms,
Yours shall I know?
v.98 Ch. Whisperer in the wind -
From what dream do you look upon
this shore
Grown strange and fair and far?
Rain walks with heavier tread,
In rustle of grass you are,
Then not -.
v.126
'In spirit accompany me.
- Your parting words by heart I know,
On what far joumey then do we
Into the dark together go?
v.99 Near and far summit and sky,
Soaring wing, circling joy,
Thrilling bird-voice over the bay,
You their bright presence,
Dazzle of blue waves' dance,
Gold of the silver sea.
v.127
Ch. Beyond the empry door
Spaces, distances, stars
Innumerable, beautiful and far;
Mysterious night over us.
The darkness too His house, and ours.
V.l02
Solo
(Coda)
That we die who live
My heart knew by your grave.
Does he live who died?
'He is not here', the angel on the
stone replied.
v.129
Out of the arms of night
None can fall,
Refuge of sinners
Whose merciful stars towards us
Beam from their height
Indifference
Absolving all.
v.103 Faith, shadow of desire
Some hold; but I
Who angelic hearsay fear
To live by,
Yet know that only the listening ear
The gazing eye
Can the far descry.
v.130

Text reprinted with the permission of Agenda Editions



ALAN RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Three partsongs
I A Rose for Lidice  Text by Randall Swingler

Lidice is a mining village in Bohemia which was completely obliterated by the Nazis on 10 June 1942, its total male population massacred, the women and children sent to concentration camps. The 'Lidice shall live' Committee, first formed in Handley, Staffs., organized the gift of a rose-garden which was opened in the rebuilt village in 1956.

This partsong was first performed in June 1956 by the Purcell Singers conducted by Imogen Holst in Thaxted Church, Essex.
I A Rose for Lidice

Randall Swingler

Lidice lay unknown
In the lap of a lying world.
Lidice worked alone in the core of stone
Lidice had grown from the blood of the earth
Coal and steel were bone of Lidice's birth

Fate chose it for Hate's gangrened fury.
Hate said; Wipe out the name!
History shall abjure it!
Ah, the brave dust blew round the world;
The air flooded with blood of roses.
Hate had ploughed up the soil, Love sowed it.
Where the murderer's heel stamped on the
eyes of children
The gardener's fingers fashioned them into
roses.
Love is a ring once broken proves all untrue.
But the shed petals are token of the bud's
renewal.

While man's love grows and blossoms in time's
ground
Lidice hangs, a garland round the cross of the
world.

II The Oxen

Thomas Hardy


Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees",
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel, If someone said, on Christmas Eve
"Come; see the oxen kneel

In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Out childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

III Canzonet

Louis MacNeice


Cras amer qui nunqu'amavit
Quiqu'amavit cras amet

A thousand years and none the same
Since we to light and lovelight came;
A thousand years and who knows how
Bright flower breaks from charnel bough.

Tomb and dark grow light and green
Till blind men see, heart be seen;
A thousand years of flower and flame
A thousand years and none the same.

© 1996 /1998 Reddiffe Recordings


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