WALTON (1902-1983) Henry V (1943-44) [40:35] As You Like It (1936) [12:13]
(both arranged for chamber ensemble by Edward Watson)
John Nettles (narrator)
Lorna Rushton (soprano)
English Serenata/Guy Woolfenden
rec. 1997. DDD MERIDIAN CDE84349 [58:26]
This Meridian disc opens with an introduction
by Lady Walton herself, speaking on her late husband and Henry
V – a track that many may find fascinating, and a few, irritating.
The majority of the playing time is taken
up with the music to Laurence Olivier’s film of Henry V.
This is wonderful material, containing some superb pastiche
sections - towards the beginning and end of the “Musical Scenario” -
as well as some tunes that will be familiar from such sources
as folksong, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, and even
Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne.
Here, we have a chamber version of the film
score arranged by Edward Watson for only eleven players. It
was commissioned by the English Serenata, who play on this disc,
to enable them to give concert performances of Henry V along
with Façade. The arrangement is meant to “reflect the
theatrical roots from which the music sprang”.
That is all very admirable, but one must
bear in mind that although the play was written for a theatre,
the music was actually written for a film, not a theatre. The
small orchestral arrangement is a pale imitation of the full
score. It is effective at times, but does not do justice to
scenes such as Agincourt at all – it is simply not half
as impressive in this scoring, despite the fact that the English
Serenata do give it their all.
John Nettles narrates the spoken sections
and is absolutely superb - evocative, moving, powerful, and
with excellent accents.
Walton’s first collaboration with Olivier
was on the film of As You Like It. The version on this
disc is also an Edward Watson arrangement and comprises four
orchestral movements, including a song that was not included
in the film itself - Under the Greenwood Tree, well performed by a mellifluous Lorna
The work opens with the famous speech “All
the world’s a stage” and has one other spoken part. This worked
better in its reduced version, and is given a wonderfully lively
performance by the English Serenata and conductor Guy Woolfenden.
I would certainly go and see the English
Serenata give a concert performance of these works, but if I
was buying a disc of the film music for Henry V there’s
no doubt that I’d go for one of the full orchestral options.
Nevertheless, it is an intriguing concept, and the English Serenata
bring it off as well as could possibly be expected.
Introduction by Lady Walton
Musical Scenario; Prologue: "O, for a Muse of fire...",
Interlude at the Boar's Head, Rejection of Falstaff, Touch her
soft Lips and Part, Prologue to Act III "Suppose that you
have seen the well-appointed king...", Harfleur "Once
more into the breach dear friends...", The Night Watch:
Prologue to Act IV, "This day is called the feast of Crispian...",
Agincourt, "The day is ours...", Prologue to Act V "Now
we bear the King towards Calais...", Interlude at the French
Court, "My duty to you both..." Baile, Andante Pastorale, "You
have witchcraft in your lips, Kate...", The Wedding, Epilogue: "Thus
far with rough and all unable pen...";
As You Like It "All
the world's a stage..", The Forest of Arden, "Why
should this a desert be?...", Under the Greenwood Tree,
The Fountain segue Tempo di Menuetto, Wedding Procession.
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