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alternatively Crotchet


Music for Royal Occasions
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759)
Zadok the Priest (arr. Donald Burrows)
Westminster Abbey Choir, Martin Baker (organ)/Martin Neary [5:27]
rec. Westminster Abbey, London, 1995.
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Rondeau from Abdelazar: English Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard [1:23]
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 1981
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Crown Imperial (arr. William Duthoit): Band of the Life Guards/Major Colin J. Reeves [8:23]
rec. Wellington Barracks, London, 1992
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (arr. Lucien Cailliet): The Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy [3:25]
rec. Town Hall, Philadelphia, 1970
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Casta Diva (Norma): Renata Scotto (soprano), Ambrosian Opera Chorus, National Philharmonic Orchestra/James Levine [6:56]
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 1980
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Pomp and Circumstance March No 1: Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis [4:02]
rec. EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, 1982
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Song Without Words, Op. 85, No. 6: Peter Nagy (piano) [2:13]
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759)
Alla Hornpipe from Water Music: La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy/Jean-Claude Malgloire [2:52]
rec. Notre Dame de Liban, Paris, 1984
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
I was glad: Westminster Abbey Choir/Martin Neary [3:59]
rec. Westminster Abbey, London, 1995
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
War March of the Priests from Athalie: New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein [4:55]
rec. Philharmonic Hall, now Avert Fisher Hall, New York City, 1969
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759)
Menuets I and II from Music for the Royal Fireworks: La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy/Jean-Claude Malgloire [3:17]
rec. Notre Dame de Liban, Paris, 1992
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
I vow to thee my country: Band of the Life Guards/Major Colin J. Reeves [2:33]
rec. Wellington Barracks, London, 1992
C. Hubert H. PARRY (1848-1918)
I was glad: Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow [5:00]
rec. Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1993
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Huldigung der Königin Victoria von Grossbritannien: London Symphony Orchestra/John Georgiadis [5:07]
rec. 1989
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5: Christian von Blohn [5:10]
rec. Hildegardskirche, St Ingbert, Germany, 2000
SONY BMG 88697142882 [69:20]


Experience Classicsonline

The pit which is there to be plumbed when it comes to exploring music for Royal occasions is, it seems, as bottomless as it is popular. But how bottomless, really? And why so popular?

Thanks to radio stations such as Classic FM, we now known practically every nuance of Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest but we rarely, if ever, hear one of the other three which make up this quite stunning set of choral works.

And we simply never explore the wealth of music commissioned, or even written, by the Royals over the centuries. Although disputed by scholars, there are several works alleged to have been written by Henry VIII, for instance. Or there is the wealth of Tudor or Jacobean music written for the church. Come to that, there are works commissioned by living members of today’s Royal family by composers such as Britten or Tippett which rarely get airtime.

That’s why this disc is inherently disappointing. There’s much to commend it but it’s a compilation of old favourites, many with extremely tenuous links with the Royals. Why, for instance, do we need another recording of the final Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony, even if adequately played by Christian von Blohn? And why do the sleeve-notes not tell us where it is played and add that it was played at Princess Anne’s wedding to Lt Mark Phillips in 1973? It first burst onto the British consciousness when played at Princess Alexandra’s wedding well nigh a decade earlier.

The disc is a hotch-potch of recordings, some from as far back as 1969.

The offerings from Westminster Abbey Choir, under Martin Neary, are woolly, and set in a cavernous acoustic which does little to help the detail. Thus Handel’s Zadok the Priest – perfectly accurate, though unexciting – and Parry’s I was glad are, largely, unmemorable, though it is good to hear the rather rarely performed Purcell for once.

On the other hand, Parry’s I was glad, in a performance by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, under Richard Marlow, is well-paced and possesses clarity and precision.

Some of the links are somewhat tenuous. Why such a slow and ponderous orchestral version of Bach’s Jesu joy of man’s desiring, played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy? Ah yes ... it was played by the organist of Westminster Abbey to the congregation awaiting the arrival of Princess Elizabeth for her wedding.

And Bellini’s Casta diva from Norma is there because Queen Victoria liked opera.

Walton’s Crown Imperial and Holst’s I vow to thee, my country, extracted from Jupiter from The Planets, are both played by the Band of the Life Guards – not a pleasant experience.

The only high points in this bag of sweets come with Victorian connections: Mendelssohn’s Song without words, Op. 85 No. 6 in a stunning performance by pianist Peter Nagy. Mendelssohn later arranged it for piano duet so that Victoria and Albert could perform it together. There’s also the light-hearted confection by Johann Strauss I, Homage to Queen Victoria of Great Britain, in a cheeky interpretation by the London Symphony Orchestra under John Georgiadis.

Glyn Mon Hughes




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