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David Lloyd-Jones, the conductor of this latest Naxos release introduced the evening. He told us we were about to hear part of Ralph Vaughan William's Willow Wood. Moreover he suggested that there was something very special about this audition: we were the first people to hear this music for nearly a century. Thankfully a number of RVW's 'early horrors' have been released over the last few years - and we find out that we have been missing an impressive corpus of music for quite some time. This is especially true of Willow Wood.

Naxos chose to launch the new CD at the English Speaking Unionís beautiful and impressive Dartmouth House in Charles Street. This was appropriate as the first performance of Willow Wood was given close by at St Jamesís Hall, Piccadilly in March 1903.

The CD launch itself was very good. Someone said that 'all the usual suspects' attended. Of course there was a good turnout from the management of Naxos, the Vaughan Williams Society and Trust. Musicologists were present too - Michael Kennedy gave a short introduction to the CD and of course Lewis Foreman (he wrote the CD notes) was available for a chat! Roderick Williams was enjoying the general enthusiasm for his absolutely stunning performance as the baritone soloist. And there was a contingent from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra.

I am sure that a number of reviews of this CD will appear on Musicweb - so I will not say too much about the disc. However, based on the short extract from Willow Wood - virtually everyone was both impressed and visibly moved. From my point of view it was not quite what I expected. Perhaps I imagined the work would be more in the style of Songs of Travel. In once sense I was right and in another wrong in this judgment. The general style of the cantata is a million miles away from incipient pastoralism, modalism, Parry or even folk tunes. Yet many of the fingerprints we associate with the composerís later works are present. But there is a nod in the direction of Songs of Travel - to the beautiful and perhaps untypical song In Dreams.

There are four other works on this exciting CD including The Sons of Light which was a late setting of Ursula Vaughan Williams' (nee Wood's) evocative words. It was especially pleasant to see her in the audience.

The atmosphere was excellent at the launch and was helped on by the charming catering staff serving first-rate vino and canapés.

One last thought Ė Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the composer wrote the words and music three doors and some thirty years apart in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea!

Willow Wood, Toward an Unknown Region, Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus, The Sons of Light, Naxos 8.557798



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