A Cotswold Romance (1951) is the cantata-for-concert-performance version
of Vaughan Williams's 'ballad-opera' Hugh the Drover (1910-14). The
cantata remains faithful to the original but much more scope and prominence
is given to the choir (the London Philharmonic Choir in fine fettle.) Hickox
gives a lusty, romantic performance in this, its premiere recording.
The opening sets the village atmosphere as the chorus energetically sings
'Cold blows the wind on Cotsall' a patriotic ballad-like song which sounds
like a folk song but is, in actual fact, original. "Sweet Little Linnet"
and the lovely "Love at First Sight" allows Hugh (an ardent and virile-sounding
Thomas Randle) to serenade his Mary (Rosa Mannion) who responds warmly despite
the forebodings of the women's chorus. Beforehand Hugh had boasted lustily
of his independence with the choir in "Hugh's Song of the Road".
The drama of the fight sequence is well handled with Hugh first hailed as
victor over the bullying John the Butcher before the crowd turns on him thinking
him to be a French spy (these are the days of war with Napoleon).
The concluding "Freedom at Last" returns to the confident virility of the
opening number as Hugh is freed and, after passionately quelling doubts expressed
by his beloved, he and Mary set off along the open road together.
The other premiere recording on this album is a much darker work. The
Death of Tintagiles is Vaughan Williams's incidental music to Maurice
Maeterlinck's play. (Maeterlinck, it will be recalled wrote The Bluebird;
and the Pelléas et Mélisande story upon which Debussy based
his opera). The London staging of The Death of Tintagiles was not a
success which deterred RVW from embarking on any further project of that
nature. Grim and foreboding though it often is, the music is also powerful,
full of atmosphere and elegiac. The story concerns a little boy Tintagiles
who suffers at the hands of his suspicious and jealous grandmother, the Queen.
Banished to a gloomy castle with his sisters, they are powerless to save
him from unseen malignant forces. An intriguing RVW rarity
For keen Vaughan Williams fans