Rule Britannia: Last Night of the Proms (Chris Craker/ English Northern Philharmonia/ Leeds Festival Chorus/ Paul Daniel) (Naxos: 8.553981)
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Last Night of theProms
William Walton(1902-1983): Crown Imperial; Orb and Sceptre
Sir William Walton wascertainly the finest Master of the King's/Queens's Musick that never was. Hefrequently produced ceremonial pieces with just the right combination offanfare, colour and a real "English" tune. His ability to many musicof genuine spirit and originality with a current of popular and nationalfeeling was unique in his generation. The two most famous products of thisskill were the coronation marches: Crown Imperial, commissioned by theBBC for the coronation of Edward VIII and performed at that of George VI in1937 and Orb and Sceptre, written for the coronation of the Queen in1953 and dedicated to Her Majesty. Walton unashamedly borrows the design of Elgar'sPomp and Circumstance marches, with the central section reserved for astilling tune. He found the inspiration for the titles for his marches in apassage from Henry V, that con Id provide titles for a wholestring of ceremonial marches, jokingly remarking that he was saving "BedMajestical" for the coronation of Prince Charles:
I am a King thatfind thee, and I know
'Tis nat the bahm,the sceptre and the ball,
The sword, themace, the crown imperial,
The intertissuedrobe of gold and pearl,
The farc?¿d titlerunning 'fore the King
The throne he sitson, nor the tide of pomp
That heats upon thehigh shore of this world,
No, not all these,thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Nat all these, laidin bed majestical,
Can sleep sosoundly as the wretched slave.
Hubert Parry(1848-1918): Jerusalem
Sir Hubert Parry'ssetting of Blake's visionary poem Jerusalem was created at thesuggestion of the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges in 1916. It was written for ameeting of the "Fight for Right" campaign and later appropriated bythe movement for women's suffrage which won it much fame for its heartfeltexpression of hope. Ever since it was introduced into the Last Night of theProms by Sir Malcolm Sargent it has been a firm patriotic favourite.
Edward Elgar(1857-1934): Enigma Variations: Nimrod
Sir Edward Elgar's EnigmaVariations was his first great success, winning the support of Hans Richterand receiving many performances in England and across Europe. The core of thework is its marvellous expressive theme, ripe for development yet satisfying initself. The work is a series of portraits of Elgar's friends and colleagues. Nimrodwas August Johannes Jaeger, Elgar's publisher working at Novello's, whoinspired and encouraged the composer to create his finest work. Elgar's clevernicknames are at work here. Jaeger is the German for hunter and Nimrod was agreat Biblical hunter. The emotional strength and nobility of this tribute haswon it a place close to the heart of the English musical nation.
Sir Henry Wood(1869-1944): Fantasia on British Sea Songs
In 1905 Sir HenryWood, the founder of the promenade concerts, arranged a gala concert tocelebrate the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. In a programme ofsea-faring music he included his own Fantasia on British Sea Songs whichwas hastily put together in the three weeks before the concert. By including itin the final night of the next season's promenade concerts he established atradition, the spectacular orchestration of Rule Britannia always bringingthe house down Mindful and respectful of his musicians, Wood provided severalof his most distinguished players with important solos. The piece begins withauthentic bugle-calls and then follow: The Saucy Arethusa (euphonium), TomBowling (cello), Jack's the Lad (violin); a spirited hornpipe whichalways leaves the Last Night audience trailing in its wake, Farewell yeSpanish Ladies (a sonorous trombone quartet), a wonderfully enjoyable butirrelevant clarinet cadenza, Home Sweet Home (oboe), See the ConqueringHero (horn, as in the original Handel) and finally Rule Britannia asa triumphant conclusion.
Malcolm Arnold (b.
1921): Overture "Tam O'Shanter"
Sir Malcolm Arnold isnow justly famous for a huge range of expertly crafted and expressive music thathas always been distinguished by his wonderful ear for instrumental sonorityand an intimate inside knowledge of the orchestra. The overture TamO'Shanter (1955) after the narrative poem by Robert Burns is a virtuosicdisplay of the composer's skill, telling the story of Tam's late night journey,his encounter with a coven of witches and his lucky escape. The drunken Tam isportrayed at the opening by a comically inebriated pair of bassoons and as hisjourney progresses through the stormy night the music gets wilder and wilder.
The climax of the work is the vivid picture of the devil himself, the wholeorchestra sounding like huge devilish bagpipes:
There sat AuldNick, in shape o' beast;
A tousie tyke,black, grim, and large,
To gie them musicwas his charge:
He screw'd thepipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof andrafters a' did dirl.
(Robert Burns(1759-1796): Tam O'Shanter)
Hubert Parry: I wasglad when they said unto me
Parry's anthem Iwas glad when they said unto me was written as the processional anthem forthe coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. It has been repeated at everycoronation since then. When performed as a ceremonial work it includes musicfor the Westminster Abbey Boys Choir and the long military trumpets that graceroyal occasions. The text is from Psalm 122, verses 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7,and taken literally would seem to have a great deal of relevance for this dayand age. The mood is urgent and ceremonial until a change of key and the use ofa semi-chorus for O pray for the peace before a return to the openingstyle for a splendid ending.
Edward Elgar: Pomp andCircumstance March No. 1
Elgar's Pomp andCircumstance March No. 1 was first heard in Liverpool in 1901. At the firstLondon performance, Sir Henry Wood had to play it three times "merely torestore order" as he put it in his autobiography. This was without theassociation with A.C. Benson's words Land of Hope and Glory. These wereadded to the tune in Elgar's Coronation Ode of 1902. The work is sopopular, of course, because of the great tune that comes twice, serving as atrio section for the vigorous march.
Leeds Festival Chorus
Chorus Master SimonWright
Leeds Festival Choruswas founded in 1858 to sing at the first Leeds Music Festival. The festivalowed much of its international reputation to the quality of the chorus and thenew works commissioned from composers such as Dvořak, Elgar, Holst andVaughan Williams. Many distinguished conductors have worked with the chorus,including Sullivan, Beecham, Giulini, Horenstein, Karl Richter, Pierre Boulez,Charles Mackerras, Colin Davis, John Eliot Gardiner, Roger Norrington and MarkElder, but it was Malcolm Sargent who conducted the premi?¿re of what is perhapsthe Festival's most famous commission, Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. Thechorus now numbers about 160 singers and continues to sing in Leeds Town Hallwith a variety of conductors. It also makes frequent visits to the Bri