One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones & printers


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger
Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Flowers of the Field
George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916)
A Shropshire Lad - Rhapsody for orchestra (1912/13) [10.22]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Requiem da camera (1923/25) [22.29]
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)
The Trumpet, for chorus and orchestra (c. 1921) (ed. orch. Philip Lancaster) [5.45]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
An Oxford Elegy (1947/49) [22.01]
Natasha Harbinson (soprano), David Bagnall (tenor), Emily Tidbury (soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone), Jeremy Irons (speaker), City of London Choir
London Mozart Players/Hilary Davan Wetton
rec. 11-12 July 2014, Henry Wood Hall, London, UK
Full texts in booklet
NAXOS 8.573426 [60.41]

Titled Flowers of the Field to mark Remembrance Day this Naxos release is a fitting tribute to four composers who were greatly affected by the First World War with one making the ultimate sacrifice. I noticed that three of them are directly connected to Royal College of Music (RCM) and Finzi too, indirectly, by way of his teacher. Two of the works are being recorded here for the first time.

Setting the tone for this collection of works to honour the fallen is A Shropshire Lad, written and premièred before the war. Butterworth studied for a short time at the RCM. He could possibly have had some lessons with Stanford but almost certainly would have come under his influence anyway. Butterworth enlisted at the outbreak of war and was shot and killed on the Somme in 1916. A Shropshire Lad is a favourite work of mine. Under Hilary Davan Wetton the London Mozart Players adopt a quite forceful approach. This is not what I am used to hearing in this score where there is little in the way of “lambkins frisking” as Vaughan Williams is reported to have said of his Pastoral Symphony. As the music diminishes in weight from around point 8.29 the atmosphere created is quite magical.

One of the least known works on the release is Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera for baritone, mixed chorus and chamber orchestra. Written mainly in 1923/24 and bearing a dedication to memory of his teacher Ernest Farrar (who had studied with Stanford at the RCM) who died on the Somme in 1918, Finzi left the score incomplete. Recorded here for the first time is the new performing version, edited and completed by Christian Alexander. Commencing with an orchestral prelude, at the heart of the score is a setting for baritone of Thomas Hardy’s In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’ framed by choral settings by John Masefield and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. This early Finzi work is attractive enough and well crafted although I found little to hold my attention too long; in truth it is fairly unmemorable. The singing of the committed City of London Choir is commendable but cannot make something better than what it is. There are agreeable short contributions from soprano Natasha Harbinson and tenor David Bagnall in the second section ‘How still this quiet cornfield is to-night’ and from soprano Emily Tidbury in section four ‘We who are left’. In this type of repertoire baritone Roderick Williams has few peers. His performance in section three ‘Only a man harrowing clods’ is a highlight with singing of such telling expressive force. The Hickox recording of an earlier edition of this work can be found on Chandos.

Ivor Gurney, said to be Stanford’s favourite and most naturally gifted pupil, left his studies at the RCM to enlist as soon as war broke out. In 1917 he was wounded, later gassed twice and suffered ‘shell shock’. Scarred indelibly Gurney was certified insane and spent the last 16 years of his life in mental institutions. It was around 1921 that Ivor Gurney wrote his setting of Edward Thomas’s poem The Trumpet. Recorded here for the first time is the performing version that Philip Lancaster has edited and orchestrated from Gurney’s short score. I was in the audience at the first performance of Lancaster’s orchestration at Kendal Parish Church in July 2008. In this orchestration the music washes over in a mass of sound which is certainly not helped by a slightly cloudy recording. I was glad to have the text in front of me as I couldn’t have followed it from the singing alone.

Although he was of an age when he didn’t have to join up Vaughan Williams volunteered to serve with the ambulance brigade as a driver and stretcher-bearer in Northern France and in Salonika. He would have witnessed the unspeakable carnage of the battlefields. Although, it has been recorded several times (Westbrook/Willcocks/EMI; May/Darlington/Nimbus) An Oxford Elegy for narrator, small mixed chorus and small orchestra is rarely performed today. Composed in 1947/49 at the start of the last decade of the composer’s life the score falls roughly between the dates of his Symphony No. 6 and the Sinfonia Antarctica. The words were assembled from Matthew Arnold’s poems The Scholar-Gipsy and its sequel Thyrsis. This is an unusual choral work, although not unprecedented, in that the main body of the text is undertaken by a narrator - not a vocalist. Vaughan Williams had already written A Song of Thanksgiving a choral work with orchestra in 1944 which contained a part for speaker. Other near-contemporary works in this format include Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. Oxford Elegy is one of Vaughan Williams' least successful works although the chorus and orchestra under Hilary Davan Wetton do everything expected of them and perform with credit. As one might expect celebrated actor Jeremy Irons as speaker reads impeccably with considerable authority and with clarity. He has something of an established connection with this work. He was the narrator in An Oxford Elegy when it was performed at the first of Em Marshall-Luck's English Music Festival in 2006 in Dorchester-on-Thames. Hilary Davan Wetton was also the conductor on that occasion.

The sound quality is rather disappointing, certainly not as vividly clear as my ideal especially in the choral passages, together with some fierceness in the forte passages. Full sung texts are provided in the booklet and are also available as a download.

Michael Cookson

Previous review (Download News): Brian Wilson