Glorious Majesty - Music for
English Kings and Queens – Diamond Jubilee Edition
BRITTEN Jubilate Deo in C major;
Gloriana - Symphonic Suite Op. 53a; BYRD
O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth; ELGAR
Coronation Ode, Op. 44; Imperial March, Op. 32; O hearken
Thou, Op. 64; Coronation March, Op. 65; Nursery Suite: The Sad Doll;
Coronation Anthems Nos. 1-4; Ode for the Birthday of Queen
Anne HWV74 'Eternal source of light divine'; Music
for the Royal Fireworks, HWV351; PARRY
I was glad; PURCELL Come ye
sons of art (Ode for Queen Mary's birthday), Z 323; Music
for the Funeral of Queen Mary; Trad arr
ELGAR The British National Anthem; VAUGHAN
WILLIAMS O Taste and See; The Old Hundredth 'All
people that on earth do dwell'; WALTON
Crown Imperial; Coronation Te Deum; Orb and Sceptre.
Full Track-List at end of review
EMI CLASSICS 50999 32728521 [3 CDs: 72:12 + 76:44 + 78:28]
We start with the best known of all coronation anthems, Zadok
the priest, first heard at that of George II in 1727 and
at every coronation since. There’s a wonderful sense of expectation
in the long parade of violin semiquavers. It’s steady but sure
and a veil is suddenly lifted at 1:23 with mass acclamation.
Then follows the bounce of rejoicing with trumpets especially
Three more anthems follow. Let thy hand be strengthened
is scored only for oboes and strings. The dance in sunny splendour
in the introduction with King’s College Cambridge Choir’s articulation
sturdily rhythmic, confident and again festive. The central
section provides the contrast of solemn prayer before a closing
chorus of Alleluias that’s both formal and florid.
With The King shall rejoice we’re back to the full
orchestral panoply. I admire the firm choral line and balance
amid the profusion of orchestral and choral counterpoint. Again
there are telling quieter sections: the consoling colouring
of ‘for thy salvation’, the emphases in the quaver runs on ‘blessings’
before the grander blaze of the Alleluia chorus.
My heart is inditing (CD 1 tr. 12) has a semi-chorus
start, here two voices per part, to allow full grandeur to the
tutti entry at 1:54. Its central, quieter sections
have more of a pastoral luxuriance, ever at the service of the
text. The King’s ‘pleasure’ is vividly realized in six dotted-quaver/semiquaver
There can never have been a more emphatic declaration of majesty
than this set of anthems and King’s Choir do them proud.
Now step back 130 years or so for Byrd’s O Lord, make thy
servant Elizabeth our Queen - a homage to the first Elizabeth.
Compilations can throw up thought-provoking juxtapositions.
There are fine pieces, like the Handel, which sit comfortably
in the royal music convention. Then there are others, like this
Byrd, which break the bounds. It's surprising how suddenly
we encounter here music of almost palpable warmth and affection.
Listen to the gently rolling contours of its counterpoint and
We go forward 100 years to the last and finest of Purcell's
six birthday odes for Queen Mary, Come ye sons of art away.
The emphasis in David Munrow's 1975 recording is on refinement.
The Overture has a burnished, autumnal majesty after Handel's
full sunlight. James Bowman's opening counter-tenor solo
to the title words is smooth and stylish but this and the chorus
repeat are rather laid-back. I prefer the greater enthusiasm
and pace of the 1988 Andrew Parrott recording (Virgin 5615822),
1:45 for this opening against Munrow's 2:09. There are
compensations, in particular the counter-tenor solo of Charles
Brett in 'Strike the viol': his ornamentation
of repeats is varied with telling sensitivity and intelligence.
Nine months after this ode’s performance Queen Mary died and
Purcell supplied her funeral music. In the original release
of this 2005 recording (review)
these pieces were framed by a drum processional and recessional.
This makes for an authentic and atmospheric touch which I regret
wasn’t included here; there was certainly enough playing space.
We move on just 18 years for another birthday ode, the one Handel
wrote for Queen Anne, Eternal source of light divine.
While Purcell has two counter-tenors singing about sounding
the trumpet and imitating it joyously, Handel has one counter-tenor
matched with obbligato trumpet in a series of expansive, glowing
melismata. What makes the performance here by Robin
Blaze and David Blackadder respectively is its emotive edge:
this evocation of sunrise really matters. Otherwise the work
is a continuous showcase of virtuosity, a contest in variety
of setting the same words in a repeated chorus which incorporates
the characteristics of preceding arias. The opening and closing
choruses go one better on the Hallelujah Chorus of Messiah
in pitting sustained trumpet notes with semiquaver vocal runs,
where Messiah mixes quaver and semiquaver runs. King’s
Choir aren’t at all flustered by this.
36 years later comes Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks,
here from the London Classical Players and Roger Norrington.
Listening again to this 1996 recording I was struck by the sheer
bounce and sense of festivity of the Ouverture. Norrington
finds light and shade between the brass and the strings, the
clarity and contrast of the division of the groups of trumpets
and drums, horns, and strings, oboes and bassoons. For more,
see my review
when the recording was last reissued on a single CD.
Elgar’s Coronation Ode for Edward VII (CD 2 tr. 17)
traverses similar sentiments to those of the Handel anthems.
Indeed it attempts a wider emotional range but is disadvantaged
by its more mundane and rather mawkish, albeit accessible, verse
by A.C. Benson. That said, the introductory movement is grand
and assured in its sonorous brass descents. There’s a surprise
in the soft, vocally restrained ending from 8:54 when the theme
of ‘Land of hope and glory’ is introduced. Listen out for the
stylish crescendo to top A flat from soprano soloist Felicity
Lott at 9:14. It’s the quieter movements that are most effective:
the pleasing lyricism and visionary close of ‘Daughter of ancient
kings’(tr. 19), the invocation to what might be the fairy world
and then to music itself in ‘Hark, upon the hallowed air’ (tr.21)
and the longing expressed within the spare treatment of ‘Peace,
gentle Peace’ (tr. 22). ‘Land of hope and glory’, again the
tune but here with different words, secures a rousing finale.
Elgar's Imperial March is not just music of
unassailable heroic valour. It has a dreamy, tender second theme
of domestic thoughts and feelings and a fully rounded majesty.
Sir Adrian Boult is expert at catching both moods. The anthem
O hearken thou is fascinating. Melodically it's
strangely austere but has the dramatic intensity of Mahler in
its projection of pain and supplication. Again breaking the
bounds of convention, this is beyond a polite offertory setting
for a coronation. Then in the deft ascents at the end there's
a glimmer of the hope of salvation. Taut control from Richard
Hickox makes for a very moving experience. Sadly this can't
be said of Elgar's Coronation March for George
V. Here convention has proved stultifying. A dour epic
manner and endless sequences don't compensate for a lack
of memorable melody or inspiration. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
and Charles Groves aren't to blame: listen to their ‘The
Sad Doll’ from the Nursery Suite next. Here Elgar’s
unique gift is sensitively displayed. He tenderly encapsulates
the dreamy contentment of childhood with suave violins yet also
demonstrates intent observation in the sullen clarinet musing.
If you’re in a fair-sized church choir you’re likely to perform
Parry’s I was glad but you won’t do it, as here, with
full orchestra and extra brass, nor will you sing the thrilling
Vivats. You can just sit back and admire Ledger’s splendid
performance. The instrumental introduction is taken very broadly
to grand effect but the vocal presentation is kept pressing
forward within its steady foundation.
Crown Imperial, Walton’s Coronation March for George
VI, has an introduction full of expectation, purpose and momentum,
especially in this 1977 account by Boult. There’s a sense of
a vast pageant and a wealth of talent arriving. Walton and Boult
can also be relaxed in the Elgarian manner but, more importantly
the trio tune is warm, noble and seems naturally capable of
aggrandizement. The fanfares which close the opening section
are gloriously expanded in the coda so it seems a world of limitless
opportunity opens before us. The Coronation Te Deum
(CD 3 tr. 7) is a more modern take on fervour and exuberance.
Unashamedly a display piece of breezy, even brash manner, Louis
Frémaux brings to it both energy and precision of contrast.
Though falling short of the grandeur, breadth and nobility of
Parry’s I was glad yet it still packs a punch. Those
soprano top As and even a B flat, and those double choir antiphonal
and semi-chorus effects for cries of ‘Holy’ are memorable. Later
there are special effects at 2:38 and 7:40 when Walton specifies
boys’ voices in the first semi-chorus, here supplied by the
Choristers of Worcester Cathedral. There’s a rich vein of noble
assurance in the trio tune of Orb and Sceptre, his
Coronation March for Elizabeth II. Its introduction is all holiday
atmosphere and gaiety. You could even sense an appreciation
of slapstick in Boult’s joyfully rhythmic vivacity. This is
New Elizabethan life at a faster pace seems a shade less substantial
than the world of Crown Imperial.
A total contrast comes in the shape of Vaughan Williams’ O
taste and see. What comes across in this Chichester Cathedral
Choir performance is the purity of unaccompanied prayer. It’s
heard in the vast space of a cathedral which here serves to
accentuate the intimacy of witness by a few voices seemingly
relaxed in their trust in God. All change again for RVW’s arrangement
of All people that on earth do dwell, a mighty public
homage. There’s pageantry in those blazing trumpets but solemnity
gets the better of King’s Choir’s measured clarity: the sparkle
Britten’s 1961 Jubilate Deo is as bubbling a setting
as you’ll ever hear. King’s Choir’s performance bursts with
energy yet also finds moments of reflection. Try the ‘be thankful
unto him’ episode. There’s a touch of awe and mystery at ‘world
without end’. The obbligato organ accompaniment is irrepressible
and James Lancelot makes it sound really cheeky. In the Symphonic
Suite from Gloriana Britten conveys in the musical
language of the outset of the reign of Elizabeth II the spirit
of the age of Elizabeth I. ‘The Tournament’ (tr. 12) is open
air music: all energy, careering strings, buoyant brass fanfares.
Then comes the ‘Green leaves are we, red rose our golden queen’
- an affectionate hymn of homage. This is borne by warm strings
in stately procession - the need to believe in a cause. The
March from the ‘Courtly Dances’ (tr. 13) has formality but also
splash. The Coranto (0:49) is barn-dance like. The Pavane for
brass (2:13) speaks of weighty majesty and serious state decisions.
The Morris (4:38) has gypsy abandon in its flute and oboe leaps.
The Galliard (5:45) is feathery, out of which emerges the more
whimsical and folksy decoration of a solo quartet of all the
string instruments. La Volta (7:34) allows all the
orchestra to let its hair down. Listen for the trombones’ outrageous
glissando at 8:19. Uri Segal’s performance is lively and it’s
We are also treated to Elgar’s arrangement of the National Anthem.
Here the forthright manner of the Cambridge University Musical
Society Chorus represents all of us who wish to affirm allegiance.
It makes a fitting close to a good spread of familiar and less
familiar royal music. A little room might have been found for
some madrigals from The triumphs of Oriana honouring
Elizabeth I and some of Henry VIII’s own music. Personally I’d
also have cut out Elgar’s Coronation March and had
the entire Nursery Suite.
It’s right that the major royal music is choral: words force
you to reflect on our need for leaders and justifying leadership.
Glorious Majesty: Music for English Kings and Queens
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Coronation Anthems (1727) 1
William BYRD (c. 1540 – 1623)
O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen [2:41] 2
Henry PURCELL (1659 – 1695)
Come ye sons of art away, Z323 (1694) [26:09] 3
Funeral Music for Queen Mary: March, Canzona, Z860 (1692) [4:50]
4; Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts,
Z58C (1695) [2:33] 5
George Frideric HANDEL
Eternal source of light divine (1713) [25:14] 6
Musick for the Royal Fireworks (1749) [18:02] 7
Edward ELGAR (1857 – 1934)
Coronation Ode, op. 44 (1902) [33:24] 8
Imperial March, op. 32 (1897) [4:24] 9
O hearken thou, op. 64 (1911) [4:08] 10
Coronation March, op. 65 (1911) [10:45] 11
Nursery Suite: The Sad Doll [1:51] 12
Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848 – 1918)
I was glad (1902) [6:45] 13
William WALTON (1902 – 1983)
Crown Imperial (1937) [8:31] 14
Coronation Te Deum (1953) [9:19] 15
Orb and Sceptre (1953) [6:47] 16
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)
O taste and see (1953) [1:40] 17
Louis BOURGEOIS arr. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
All people that on earth do dwell [4:56] 18
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976)
Jubilate Deo [2:27] 19
Gloriana: Symphonic Suite op. 53a: The Tournament;
The Courtly Dances (1953) [13:49] 20
Arr. Edward ELGAR
National Anthem (1902) [2:45] 21
1, 2, 5, 6, 18 King’s College Cambridge Choir/Stephen
Cleobury 1 Academy of Ancient Music
3 Norma Burrowes (soprano), James Bowman, Charles
Brett (countertenors), Robert Lloyd (bass), Early Music Consort
of London/David Munrow
4 David Blackadder, Phillip Bainbridge, Susan Addison,
Stephen Saunders (flat trumpets)
6 Susan Gritton (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor),
Michael George (bass)
7 London Classical Players/Sir Roger Norrington
8 Dame Felicity Lott (soprano), Alfreda Hodgson (contralto),
Ricahrd Morton (tenor), Stephen Roberts (bass), 8, 13,
21 Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus, King’s
College Cambridge Choir, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Band of
the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall/Sir Philip
9, 14, 16 London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian
10 London Symphony Chorus, Northern Sinfonia/Richard
11, 12 Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir
15 Worcester Cathedral Choristers, CBSO Chorus, City
of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Louis Frémaux
17 Chichester Cathedral Choir/John Birch
18 The Wallace Collection
19 King’s College Cambridge Choir/Sir Philip Ledger
20 Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Uri Segal
recs. published 1966 17 to 2006 4,5 .
EMI CLASSICS 3 27285 2 [3 CDs: 72:12 + 76:44 +