LAUNCH OF RVW’S CANTATA
WILLOW WOOD ON NAXOS
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
Naxos chose to launch
the new CD at the English Speaking Union’s
beautiful and impressive Dartmouth House
in Charles Street. This was appropriate
as the first performance of Willow
Wood was given close by at St James’s
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
composer’s 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 –
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the composer
wrote the words and music three doors
and some thirty years apart in Cheyne
Willow Wood, Toward an Unknown Region,
Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus,
The Sons of Light, Naxos 8.557798