Plea for peace
Vaughan Williams's 'Dona Nobis Pacem' in Florida,
reviewed by LAWRENCE BUDMEN
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) created one of the great choral masterpieces of the 20th century with his Dona Nobis Pacem. Composed in the mid 1930s (as the drums of war beat across Europe) this score is a deeply moving plea for peace. Vaughan Williams combined traditional Latin texts with the powerful verbal imagery of Walt Whitman who, like the composer, knew the horrors of war first hand. Plainsong and British folk song infuse Vaughan Williams's musical language which is thoroughly rooted in early 20th century tonality. Aural winds of Sibelius and such British contemporaries as Holst (especially in the setting of Whitman's 'Beat! Beat! Drums!' from Drum Taps) and Walton sweep through the sound palette. Yet this is the work of a composer with his own sound -- a distinctive musical language. (The composer's nine symphonies remain pillars of Western orchestral composition and can not be mistaken for the work of any other creative artist.) The hard edged lyricism of the Dona Nobis Pacem speaks eloquently of the futility of war. That message remains timely today.
The Master Chorale of South Florida and the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia under the magisterial direction of Jo-Michael Scheibe presented a superb traversal of this memorable score on 14 January 2006 at the Second Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA.
Copyright © 29 January 2006
Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA