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Deadly Sins

Walton's orchestral music -

'The English Northern Philharmonia is on admirable form ...'

Walton: The Quest; The Wise Virgins (c) 2002 HNH International Ltd

David Lloyd-Jones is much involved in the Walton Complete edition; here he brings the notes alive with unfailing aplomb, admirable vitality and skill. The Quest and The Wise Virgins (the Foolish Virgins will get their turn in a moment) occupy a moral high ground appropriate enough to a wartime Britain. Both ballets were conceived by Frederick Ashton in the early 1940s. St George is the hero of The Quest, with Archimago (Hypocrisy) as main opposition. The saint is in murderous mood, dispatching three pernicious knights in the course of the work. The Seven Deadly Sins have a rare time (and Walton with them) cavorting, which is not quite the word for Sloth, in the Palace of Pride. At the end St George, in time-honoured fashion, abandons the heroine, dons his armour, and pursues his quest, in this case eminently patriotic.

The music was composed in haste and may not be major Walton; but there is much to intrigue, and some moments of splendid inspiration. At the outset St George is lost in a storm with Una, who personifies Truth [listen -- track 1, 0:03-1:09]. The Archimago's first ploy is to transform his servant into the semblance of Una in the hope of seducing the saint. There is of course not a chance, but Walton tries his sensuous best [listen -- track 1, 5:28-6:25]. The greatest challenge to the composer was to write a set of variations exemplifying each of the Deadly Sins. Here his resource and wit are at full stretch; perhaps my favourite is the torpid immobility of Sloth [listen -- track 4, 0:00-0:44]. Once the ballet runs out of adversaries, the saint bethinks himself of England's plight and rides off in triumph to quell what foes may still remain to her [listen -- track 7, 4:59-5:55].

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Copyright © 24 November 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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