Home listening: a must for RVW fans, and more

Vaughan Williams’s incidental music for an abandoned production of Richard II, recorded for the first time, features on a fine disc from the RSNO

• Even at the height of the second world war, the BBC was commissioning new music, particularly to accompany stirring radio dramas designed to inspire the stoical people of these islands. Britten wrote for Edward Sackville-West’s The Rescue and Walton for Louis MacNeice’s Christopher Columbus, and when a major production of Shakespeare’s Richard II was planned, Ralph Vaughan Williams was commissioned to provide the incidental music. He had already produced successive film scores in the war effort – 49th Parallel, Coastal Command and The Story of a Flemish Farm – and now here was a chance to write for wartime radio. His carefully tailored score was delivered (and paid for), but the production was abandoned in 1944 and the music forgotten.

Now we can hear it for the first time, in a recording by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Dutton Epoch) under Martin Yates. More than 30 radio cues are presented in sequence, some short fanfares and entrance and exit music; others longer sections illustrating action or characters. All are unmistakably RVW, and show what a meticulous craftsman he was. Cellist Nadège Rochat joins the orchestra for the Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes, flautist Anna Noakes for Roger Steptoe’s arrangement of the Suite de Ballet, and baritone Roderick Williams sings the evergreen Songs of Travel. A must for RVW fans.

• There’s more British music on Cobbett’s Legacy (Resonus), a recording by the classy Berkeley Ensemble of winning entries in their new Cobbett prize, a successor to the original early 20th-century award. Excitingly original new works by Barnaby Martin, Samuel Lewis and Laurence Osborn sit alongside the piece that won the original prize, William Hurlstone’s lovely Phantasie from 1907. Recommended.

Omer Meir Wellber at the 2019 Proms.
Omer Meir Wellber at the 2019 Proms. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou/BBC

• Finally, there is already a dizzying choice of Proms to choose from on BBC Sounds, but if you didn’t catch it, hear Haydn’s Creation sung by the fresh voices of the Proms Youth Choir, with Omer Meir Wellber, the BBC Philharmonic and some strong soloists, including the young mezzo Lucy Farrimond, who stepped out of the choir to join the principals in their final Amens. Such aplomb.

Contributor

Stephen Pritchard

The GuardianTramp

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