Excellent Vaughan Williams from Mark Wigglesworth and the RPO

10/04/2019

Delius, Walton, Vaughan Williams: Samuel West (narrator), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Mark Wigglesworth (conductor), Cadogan Hall, London, 9.4.2019. (AS)

Mark Wigglesworth (c) Ben Ealovega

Mark Wigglesworth (c) Ben Ealovega

Delius – A Village Romeo and Juliet, ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’
Walton – Henry V, Suite
Vaughan Williams – Symphony No.5 in D

Rather sadly, even the comparatively small Cadogan Hall had many empty seats for this programme, styled ‘Quintessentially English’. Frederick Delius, a cosmopolitan composer who apparently said that he didn’t know any English music, would have objected to this title, and though it’s a good intention to have an “English” concert, audience response is often disappointing. Maybe it is better to have such works let out of quarantine and coupled with those of “foreign” origin. The quality of the music is such that it can stand up well in the middle of most non-British repertoire.

That said, Walton’s music for the 1944 film Henry V is not a masterpiece, and nor would the composer or anybody else claim it to be; it is in fact extremely well written for its purpose, and excerpts from it make for an effective concert item, as was demonstrated on this occasion. Here Muir Mathieson’s concert suite was dovetailed with appropriate excerpts from Shakespeare’s play, delivered to striking effect by Samuel West. West and the conductor had put their heads together to fashion a sequence that was based partly on the excerpts spoken by Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1946 studio recording conducted by the composer, and partly on a longer concert version of 1990 devised by Christopher Palmer entitled Henry V – A Shakespeare Scenario. With West’s contributions partnered by playing from the RPO that was vigorous and sensitive in turn, this proved to be an effective and satisfying production.

In the opening Delius item Wigglesworth shaped the music nicely, and kept it flowing well. It was a faithful and well-played performance but the last ounce of magic was missing. It is probably difficult for conductor and players to summon the ultimate degree of passion and atmosphere this piece possesses from cold at the beginning of an evening.

Mark Wigglesworth conducted a pretty well ideal account of the Vaughan Williams symphony. He was hampered by the rather hard and unsympathetic Cadogan Hall acoustic, and though the strings played very well, their less than full-strength membership (dictated by the limited size of the platform) meant that those passages where tonal bloom is most needed fell a little short of the ideal. Nevertheless, Wigglesworth unfolded the opening movement’s initially gentle undulations with great skill, and the big climax was the more effective through being so well-prepared for. The Scherzo was nicely paced too, cheerful in mood and strong in rhythm. A highlight of the third movement Romanza was some lovely, songlike contributions from the woodwind principals. In the final Passacaglia Wigglesworth brought out well the qualities of anguish and stress that reside in the composer’s thoughts partway through this movement, and the quiet ending of the work was the more effective in the sense of consolation and resolution that it brings.

Alan Sanders

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! This Year’s International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival at Buxton and Harrogate __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Memories of West End Musical Delights __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month