Arcadia Lost

Graham Williams
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The bulk of the music on this disc was recorded in the Sydney Opera House (1-3 October 2009) at a public concert...

Vaughan Williams described Flos Campi as 'a suite for solo viola, small chorus and small orchestra' and it is one of the composer's least familiar masterpieces. The piece was written in 1925 and first performed in London, conducted by Sir Henry Wood with Lionel Tertis as the solo violist. The exquisite orchestration of this work shows Vaughan Williams at his most imaginative. Each of its six sections, that run without a break, is prefaced by a quotation in Latin from the Song of Solomon. These were chosen by the composer for their erotic content, and the music's oriental sensuousness is achieved by combination of the wordless chorus, percussion and winding viola line that gives Flos Campi its mystical quality. The performance recorded here is distinguished by the outstanding viola playing of Roger Benedict and the fine contribution of the chorus – Cantillation...

This is the fifth recording of Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem to reach SACD and that excellent British conductor Mark Wigglesworth directs a trenchant performance of the piece, starting with an urgent acount of the opening 'Lachrymosa'. ..

The finest performance on the disc is undoubtedly that of the Song Cycle On Wenlock Edge. Vaughan Williams composed this setting of six poems by AE Houseman in 1908 following his period of study with Ravel in Paris earlier that year, and the influence of the French master is clearly evident in the writing. On this SACD it is performed in its original version for tenor, piano and string quartet though Vaughan Williams did compose an orchestral accompaniment for it in 1924. Steve Davislim has already demonstrated his outstanding talent on both the operatic stage and as a lieder singer. His distinctive and plaintive sounding vocal quality is ideally suited to conveying the essence of these lovely poems. His subtly nuanced performance and firm delivery is a delight, and he receives stylish support from pianist Benjamin Martin and a fine young Australian group, the Hamer Quartet. The recording venue, the Iwaki Auditorium, Melbourne provides an intimate acoustic perfectly suited to the performance and the engineering is first-class.

Melba's digi-pack presentation is as usual most attractive. Texts are provided for On Wenlock Edge and authoritative notes by Michael Kennedy make interesting reading.