Finzi: Requiem da Camera, Vaughan Williams: An Oxford Elegy, etc CD review – hymns to the fallen

Williams/Irons/City of London Choir/London Mozart Players/Wetton

The most familiar and earliest of the works here – George Butterworth’s orchestral rhapsody A Shropshire Lad, which was completed in 1913 – sets the tone for this elegiac collection, the rest of which is directly or indirectly connected with the first world war and memories of those who died in it. Two of the works here appear in versions that are recorded for the first time: Philip Lancaster’s orchestration of the anthem-like choral setting by Ivor Gurney of Edward Thomas’s The Trumpet; and Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera, in a new performing edition by Christian Alexander.

Requiem da Camera, which Finzi composed in the 1920s in memory of his teacher Ernest Farrar, who died on the Somme in 1918, was his first attempt at an extended work. Its centrepiece is a baritone setting of Hardy’s In Time of the Breaking of Nations, flanked by choral settings of Masefield and Gibson and introduced with an orchestral prelude that has phrases from Butterworth’s Housman song Loveliest of Trees woven through it. It was never performed complete in Finzi’s lifetime, and has only been recorded once before (by Richard Hickox on Chandos, in a different edition) so this version, intelligently paced by Hilary Davan Wetton with Roderick Williams as the matchless baritone soloist, is a significant addition to the Finzi catalogue.

Alongside it and the Butterworth – which Davan Wetton makes more than usually urgent and anguished while revealing its unexpected debt to Sibelius – the Vaughan Williams rarity, An Oxford Elegy, seems rather contrived and routine. Using extracts from Matthew Arnold’s The Scholar Gypsy, it dates from the late 1940s, but harks to the first world war and to the friends including Butterworth that Vaughan Williams lost then. The chorus is largely wordless, and most of the text is delivered as spoken narration (by Jeremy Irons in this case) – could it be that Vaughan Williams got the idea from Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, composed a few years earlier? Yet it’s never totally convincing, and it’s the Finzi especially that makes the disc so worthwhile.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Vaughan Williams: Complete Recordings – review
Conductor Adrian Boult's lifelong immersion in the music of Vaughan Williams makes for a superb box set, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Mar, 2013 @1:29 PM

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending; Flos Campi; On Wenlock Edge; Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem – review
Mark Wigglesworth's account of the Britten is a slow burner; he resists the temptation to turn it into a virtuoso showpiece from the start, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

23, Feb, 2012 @10:20 PM

Article image
Now the Hero/Nawr yr Arwr review – breathtaking requiem for the fallen
Warriors emerge from the waves of Swansea Bay at the start of an epic piece of theatre marking the end of the first world war

Rian Evans

27, Sep, 2018 @3:07 PM

Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos 5 and 7 – review
Bernard Haitink's conducting of Vaughan Williams' symphonies is impressive, but the quality of the live recordings don't do the works justice, says Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

22, Aug, 2013 @8:30 PM

Vaughan Williams: Symphonies No 5 and 8 – review
Elder's account of Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony - in what looks like being a complete cycle with the Hallé – has a wonderful easy breadth, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Feb, 2013 @10:30 PM

Article image
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 4 and 8 CD review – precision playing
Wigglesworth’s powerful and authoritative reading of the 4th symphony make this disc worthwhile

Andrew Clements

19, Mar, 2015 @6:09 PM

Britten: War Requiem – review
Noseda's understanding of ritual devotion and political anger here is acute and the choral singing is fervent, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

10, May, 2012 @9:33 PM

Richafort: Requiem, etc – review
This set of memorial works for Josquin des Prez impresses most thanks to its least-known contributors, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

18, Apr, 2013 @9:45 PM

Article image
Mozart: Requiem review – 'Tremendous climaxes'
John Butt and the Dunedin Consort explore the history of Mozart's Requiem via an energetic and distinctive approach, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

02, Apr, 2014 @4:30 PM

Article image
Armistice: Maudite soit la Guerre review – a cinematic anti-war requiem
Olga Neuwirth fuses music and film in a subtly evocative accompaniment to Alfred Machin’s prophetic 1914 silent classic

Andrew Clements

03, Nov, 2018 @6:00 AM