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'All involved in this performance
plunge merrily into the fray like persons possessed.'

HILARY DAVAN WETTON's performances
of the 'Tudor Portraits' and 'Mystical Songs' -


Rarely performed RVW seems an unlikely prospect during the composer's lifetime, but since his death the nine symphonies have assumed the mantle of main interest. The mid 1950s - early 60s however, evinced interest outside the UK when Steinberg with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Abravanel with the Utah Symphony made important recordings of some of the rarer works which paralleled those about to be made by Boult and Willcocks on EMI and other labels.

Five Mystical Songs dates from 1911; the same year that saw the completion of his Sea Symphony. Vaughan Williams was almost 40 and just completed studies with Ravel in Paris, where he had mastered counterpoint colourings that the Frenchman had insisted came from discovering the harmonic progressions on the pianoforte. No instrument being immediately available, Vaughan Williams' next 3 months in the French capital became an eternal quest of new discoveries when one was put at his disposal.

The warmth of harmonic colourings becomes immediately apparent as one listens to the beauty of the accompaniment in 'Easter', 'I got me flowers', 'Love bade me welcome'. 'The Call', 'Antiphon', which perfectly compliment the baritone's sonorous declamation of George Herbert's texts.

John Skelton, the Tudor poet, provided the baudy, realistic and earthy words that form the basis of Five Tudor Portraits (Elgar, familiar with Skelton's writings often entitled them as being pure jazz!) At the Norwich Festival, 1936, Edwin Evans reported in The Musical Times that he had rarely seen an English audience 'so relieved of concert-room inhibitions'. The titles of the portraits set the scene just as vividly as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: 'The Tunning of Elinor Rumming', 'Pretty Bess', 'Epitaph on John Jayberd of Diss', 'Jane Scroop (Her Lament for Philip Sparrow)' and 'Jolly Rutterkin'. All involved in this performance plunge merrily into the fray like persons possessed. No wonder that the CD was 'Highly Recommended' by Fanfare, USA.

Copyright © 5 August 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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