Ralph Vaughan Williams: Pan's Anniversary

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Pan's Anniversary

ALBCD 054 (Albion Records, CD)

FIRST RELEASE (17 June 2022)

Playing time: 71'48"
Tracks: 26
Booklet pages: 36
Main country of recording: United Kingdom
Reviewer: Gerald Fenech
Review of Ralph Vaughan Williams: Pan's Anniversary published on 12 August 2022

Mary Bevan, soprano
Sophie Bevan soprano
Jess Dandy, contralto (Nymphs 1, 2 and 3)
Timothy West, speaker (Shepherd)
Samuel West, speaker (Fencer)
Johnny Herford, baritone (track 22)
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
Graham Ross, chorus master
Britten Sinfonia
Thomas Gould, leader
William Vann, musical director

1-21 Ben Jonson's masque 'Pan's Anniversary', as adapted for the Shakespeare Birthday Celebration at Stratford-upon-Avon, Easter Monday 1905, with incidental music by Ralph Vaughan Williams and additional arrangements by Gustav Holst

Ralph Vaughan Williams:

22 Margery Wentworth

23 Peace, Come Away

24 To Sleep! To Sleep!

Thomas Tallis:

25 Why Fum’th in Sight (from Archbishop Parker's Psalter)

Ralph Vaughan Williams, arranged for voices and strings by Timothy Burke:

26 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Recorded 15-16 September 2021 at Henry Wood Hall, London, UK.

First, Ben Jonson’s masque Pan's Anniversary, as adapted for the Shakespeare Birthday Celebration at Stratford-upon-Avon, with incidental music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. At the heart of the music are four great Hymns to Pan for three female soloists, chorus and orchestra. Time was short, so Vaughan Williams delegated some of the dance arrangements (based on traditional tunes) to his friend Gustav Holst. The work was performed just once, on Easter Monday 1905 and was reconstructed for this recording. It is a great privilege to hear this music for the first time in 117 years, and we have recreated both words and music as heard in the 1905 outdoor production. There are two spoken parts, played by Timothy West and Samuel West. The soloists Mary Bevan, Sophie Bevan and Jess Dandy are joined by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, and Britten Sinfonia under the baton of William Vann. Thomas Gould, the leader of Britten Sinfonia, plays some dances arranged for solo violin, and violin with side-drum. Peace, Come Away and To Sleep! To Sleep! are two settings of poems by Tennyson that Vaughan Williams made when he was a student. They have been orchestrated and edited by the composer Christopher Gordon, who also orchestrated Margery Wentworth, a much later setting of poetry by John Skelton. This belongs to the same period (~1935) as Five Tudor Portraits, but I believe it to be a surviving fragment of a quite separate abandoned work, rather than a discarded Portrait. The baritone soloist in Margery Wentworth is Johnny Herford. Finally, Timothy Burke made an arrangement of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for voices and string octet as an innovative lockdown project. This is the first full recording with the choir (of thirty-nine) and octet under one roof. The words set in the Fantasia were taken from the English translation of Psalm 65 from Archbishop Parker's Psalter, the source for Tallis's original setting, which is also heard on the disc.