Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Symphony No. 6
Dona Nobis Pacem

 Blanche Christensen (sop)
William Metcalf (ten)
University of Utah Civic Chorale
Utah SO/Maurice Abravanel
Symphony recorded 1966 University of Utah
Dona recorded 1966 Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City

It was this version of Dona Nobis Pacem (not Boult's on EMI) by which I came to know the cantata. The LP (VSD71159) had Flos Campi as its coupling.

In neither work does Abravanel sell us short although I prefer the overwhelming version of the Symphony grimly conducted by Paavo Berglund with the Bournemouth SO and the dynamism of Handley's Eminence recording. Still and all both recordings are estimable events.

Dona Nobis Pacem is distant from the Victorian choral tradition although its rugged explosive power might be heard as if written under the shadow of Verdi's Requiem. As in many of RVW's choral works (e.g. Hodie) the words are anthologised from various sources. He draws on his favourite Whitman as well as the Bible. The music swells into the superbly resonant acoustic of the Tabernacle. The Whitman recalls Holst's stately sorrow in Dirge for Two Veterans. The Vaughan Williams was premiered by Albert Coates two years after Holst's death in 1934. RVW's Dirge is the processional heart of the work. Metcalf is mournful of tone but generally good as in his chilling 'you may almost hear the beating of his wings' in track 9. The chorus is superb as is Christensen who in her great 'Dona's points forward to the composer's Three Vocalises from the very end of the composer's life. Going by the Hanson recording of Song of Democracy Utah has a fine vocal tradition which I hope continues to this day.

Given the artistic strengths of both performances it is a matter of regret that there are some editing 'bumps' and blips in Dona: Track 5 2.13, 3.16. Track 7: 0.53, 1.15, 3.06.

Helpfully supportive notes by Sidney Finkelstein and full texts for the choral work.

A good bargain coupling of one work seemingly predictive of the War and another (and of course I speculate) influenced by the guilt and psychological impact of Hiroshima.

Rob Barnett

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