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Land of Hope and Glory: “The Last Night of the Proms”
Thomas ARNE (1710-1778) (arr. Sir Malcolm Sargent) Rule Britannia (Sarah Walker (mezzo)) [4:28]
Sir William WALTON (1902-1983) Crown Imperial [6:56]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Songs of the Sea (Thomas Allen (baritone)) [17:29]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Serenade to Music [14:07]
Felicity Lott, Lisa Milne, Rosa Mannion, Yvonne Kenny (sopranos); Ann Murray, Diana Montague, Della Jones, Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzos); Anthony Rolfe Johnson, John Mark Ainsley, Toby Spence, Timothy Robinson (tenors); Stephen Roberts, Christopher Maltman (baritones); Michael George, Robert Lloyd (basses)
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D, Op. 39 with 'Land of Hope and Glory' [6:18]
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918) (orch. Elgar) Jerusalem [2:40]
Sir Henry WOOD (1869-1944)
Fantasia on British Sea Songs [15:12]
London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Sir Roger Norrington
rec. The Colosseum, Watford, June-July 1996. DDD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 4800476
[68:00]
 

 

Experience Classicsonline


This CD is a rollicking delight, both musically and patriotically! The extended booklet note from Evans Mirageas, one of the Decca bosses responsible for getting this recording together, explains that Decca wanted “to have in the catalogue recordings of some of the great music associated with the Henry Wood Proms Concerts, but without all the screaming and shouting and applause… and jumping up and down.” This very well selected programme achieves this triumphantly.
 

The choice of programme contains all the predictable last night favourites, but for once we hear them in the rarefied environment of a studio recording, and what good music this is! I have never really appreciated Henry Wood’s marvellous Fantasia on British Sea Songs because every time I’ve heard it, it has been to the visual accompaniment of fake tears and people in Union Jack t-shirts bobbing up and down, but this marvellous performance from Norrington and the LPO treats the music sincerely without taking it too seriously and they respond to the widely divergent moods of the piece most satisfyingly. Good use of the acoustic with the opening trumpet calls too. In fact this disc treats us to both Proms versions of Rule Britannia. The disc opens with the - altogether more satisfying - version arranged by Sir Malcolm Sargent which used to be the traditional last-night version sung by a soloist. It was, however, dropped during the 2001 season - apparently conductor Leonard Slatkin thought such jingoism inappropriate in the wake of the 9/11 attacks - and, scandalously, it has never returned. Instead since 2002 we have been given the choral arrangement of Rule Britannia that ends Wood’s Fantasia though word has it that Sargent’s version will make a comeback on this year’s last night. Now you can compare the two (though Wood’s version has no choir on this CD), and Sarah Walker’s mezzo does a splendid job of singing the patriotic words. Other favourites like Crown Imperial and Jerusalem come off as splendidly as you would expect from a London orchestra and chorus. 

The less regular items are just as well chosen, however. Thomas Allen sings an alluring account of Stanford’s Songs of the Sea, capturing the many diverse moods of the piece from the gentle lilt of Homeward Bound to the bumptious shanty of The Old Superb. How fitting, also, to include the Serenade to Music which Vaughan Williams composed as a tribute to Sir Henry Wood on his Golden Jubilee as a conductor in 1938. The premiere of the work contained an astonishing group of soloists including Isobel Baillie, Eva Turner and Heddle Nash. Decca have also assembled a mouth-watering cast for this recording - more of which is discussed in the booklet notes - even telling us whose part from the original performance they are singing. Yet I find this to be the only minor disappointment in this collection. The blissful orchestral introduction is full of the “soft stillness” that the piece praises and the performance is full of very characterful individual contributions. The soloists don’t seem to blend well, however, particularly at the beginning of the piece, and the great tutti passage in the middle is a little in-your-face! Is it too much to imagine that they’re trying to outdo each other? Whatever way, if you can live with this then you’ll enjoy a noteworthy performance. 

All in all, then, a great collection of British favourites that are just right for any time of the year, very well recorded and performed … and at a great price too! You won’t be disappointed.

Simon Thompson


 


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