This volume of Chandos' series of Walton's Music from the Olivier films includes Richard III: A Shakespearean Scenario and Major Barbara: a Shavian Sequence, concert arrangements by Christopher Palmer, as well an excerpt of incidental music from John Gielgud's 1941 stage production of Macbeth. These particular excerpts don't reveal Walton at his most consistent or his most profound, but they do illustrate his skill at writing colorful, evocative music with a strong sense of drama. Richard III is such a dark play and, heard out of context, Walton's music doesn't seem to have the gravitas to match its malignant tone.
The concept behind the work called Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario is to take as much as possible of William Walton's score for Laurence Olivier's 1943 film and interpolate suitable excerpts from Shakespeare's play to make an hour-long concert work for speaker, chorus, and orchestra. Though it demands all your attention, the high quality of the result thoroughly rewards it, clearly and intelligently combining the two mediums in a single, arresting form.
After the success of the first volume of Walton's film music, producer Christopher Palmer switches focus from Shakespeare to the theme of war. Of course, the justifiably famous "Spitfire Prelude and Fugue" is an obligatory inclusion. Assembled from Walton's music for First of the Few (1942), a biopic about aircraft designer R. J. Mitchell, "Spitfire" was an immediate concert hall success and is presented here in a grand performance. The enterprising Palmer also assembled "A Wartime Sketchbook," a world premiere compendium of selections from The Foreman Went to France (1941) and Next of Kin (1942).
Where Walton's scores for Henry V and Richard III have had extensive recordings, the one he did for Hamlet, the second of the three Shakespeare films directed by Olivier, has been rather left on one side, with the magnificent "Funeral March" and the `poem for orchestra', "Hamlet and Ophelia", the only major items to be recorded commercially. Here, thanks to the work of Christopher Palmer, a full suite of nearly 40 minutes has been assembled at last, to fill the gap.
Marriner treats these superb examples of English baroque to exhilarating performances, with the rhythmic subtleties in both fast and slow guaranteed to enchant …the recording has plenty of ambience
There are many anthologies of late nineteenth and early twentieth century English music available but this collection from Decca is one of the finest. Neville Marriner directs the Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields in a programme of popular favourites and lesser known works collected from a number of LP's recorded between 1968 and 1981. The late analogue Decca sound is superb and the orchestra and conductor are totally in tune with the music.
Håkan Hardenberger has earned a reputation of breaking new ground for the trumpet, commissioning works from the world’s foremost composers. On this disc, he shows a different side to himself in arrangements of his favourite songs and film themes.