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Glorious Majesty – Music For English Kings And Queens

Glorious Majesty / Various
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 27285   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  George Frideric HandelHenry PurcellSir Edward ElgarSir William Walton,   ... 
Performer:  Benjamin BaylAlastair RossOliver BrookesChristopher Hogwood,   ... 
Conductor:  Stephen CleoburyDavid MunrowRoger NorringtonPhilip Ledger,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 47 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A good spread of familiar and less familiar royal music.

We start with the best known of all coronation anthems, Zadok the priest, first heard at that of George II in 1727 and at every coronation since. There’s a wonderful sense of expectation in the long parade of violin semiquavers. It’s steady but sure and a veil is suddenly lifted at 1:23 with mass acclamation. Then follows the bounce of rejoicing with trumpets especially resplendent.
 
Three more anthems follow. Let thy hand be strengthened is scored only for oboes and strings. The dance in sunny splendour in the introduction with King’s College Cambridge Choir’s articulation sturdily rhythmic, confident and again festive. The
Read more central section provides the contrast of solemn prayer before a closing chorus of Alleluias that’s both formal and florid.
 
With The King shall rejoice we’re back to the full orchestral panoply. I admire the firm choral line and balance amid the profusion of orchestral and choral counterpoint. Again there are telling quieter sections: the consoling colouring of ‘for thy salvation’, the emphases in the quaver runs on ‘blessings’ before the grander blaze of the Alleluia chorus.
 
My heart is inditing (CD 1 tr. 12) has a semi-chorus start, here two voices per part, to allow full grandeur to the tutti entry at 1:54. Its central, quieter sections have more of a pastoral luxuriance, ever at the service of the text. The King’s ‘pleasure’ is vividly realized in six dotted-quaver/semiquaver clusters.
 
There can never have been a more emphatic declaration of majesty than this set of anthems and King’s Choir do them proud.
 
Now step back 130 years or so for Byrd’s O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen - a homage to the first Elizabeth. Compilations can throw up thought-provoking juxtapositions. There are fine pieces, like the Handel, which sit comfortably in the royal music convention. Then there are others, like this Byrd, which break the bounds. It's surprising how suddenly we encounter here music of almost palpable warmth and affection. Listen to the gently rolling contours of its counterpoint and serene Amen.
 
We go forward 100 years to the last and finest of Purcell's six birthday odes for Queen Mary, Come ye sons of art away. The emphasis in David Munrow's 1975 recording is on refinement. The Overture has a burnished, autumnal majesty after Handel's full sunlight. James Bowman's opening counter-tenor solo to the title words is smooth and stylish but this and the chorus repeat are rather laid-back. I prefer the greater enthusiasm and pace of the 1988 Andrew Parrott recording (Virgin 5615822), 1:45 for this opening against Munrow's 2:09. There are compensations, in particular the counter-tenor solo of Charles Brett in 'Strike the viol': his ornamentation of repeats is varied with telling sensitivity and intelligence.
 
Nine months after this ode’s performance Queen Mary died and Purcell supplied her funeral music. In the original release of this 2005 recording ( review) these pieces were framed by a drum processional and recessional. This makes for an authentic and atmospheric touch which I regret wasn’t included here; there was certainly enough playing space.
 
We move on just 18 years for another birthday ode, the one Handel wrote for Queen Anne, Eternal source of light divine. While Purcell has two counter-tenors singing about sounding the trumpet and imitating it joyously, Handel has one counter-tenor matched with obbligato trumpet in a series of expansive, glowing melismata. What makes the performance here by Robin Blaze and David Blackadder respectively is its emotive edge: this evocation of sunrise really matters. Otherwise the work is a continuous showcase of virtuosity, a contest in variety of setting the same words in a repeated chorus which incorporates the characteristics of preceding arias. The opening and closing choruses go one better on the Hallelujah Chorus of Messiah in pitting sustained trumpet notes with semiquaver vocal runs, where Messiah mixes quaver and semiquaver runs. King’s Choir aren’t at all flustered by this.
 
36 years later comes Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks, here from the London Classical Players and Roger Norrington. Listening again to this 1996 recording I was struck by the sheer bounce and sense of festivity of the Ouverture. Norrington finds light and shade between the brass and the strings, the clarity and contrast of the division of the groups of trumpets and drums, horns, and strings, oboes and bassoons. For more, see my review when the recording was last reissued on a single CD.
 
Elgar’s Coronation Ode for Edward VII (CD 2 tr. 17) traverses similar sentiments to those of the Handel anthems. Indeed it attempts a wider emotional range but is disadvantaged by its more mundane and rather mawkish, albeit accessible, verse by A.C. Benson. That said, the introductory movement is grand and assured in its sonorous brass descents. There’s a surprise in the soft, vocally restrained ending from 8:54 when the theme of ‘Land of hope and glory’ is introduced. Listen out for the stylish crescendo to top A flat from soprano soloist Felicity Lott at 9:14. It’s the quieter movements that are most effective: the pleasing lyricism and visionary close of ‘Daughter of ancient kings’(tr. 19), the invocation to what might be the fairy world and then to music itself in ‘Hark, upon the hallowed air’ (tr.21) and the longing expressed within the spare treatment of ‘Peace, gentle Peace’ (tr. 22). ‘Land of hope and glory’, again the tune but here with different words, secures a rousing finale.
 
Elgar's Imperial March is not just music of unassailable heroic valour. It has a dreamy, tender second theme of domestic thoughts and feelings and a fully rounded majesty. Sir Adrian Boult is expert at catching both moods. The anthem O hearken thou is fascinating. Melodically it's strangely austere but has the dramatic intensity of Mahler in its projection of pain and supplication. Again breaking the bounds of convention, this is beyond a polite offertory setting for a coronation. Then in the deft ascents at the end there's a glimmer of the hope of salvation. Taut control from Richard Hickox makes for a very moving experience. Sadly this can't be said of Elgar's Coronation March for George V. Here convention has proved stultifying. A dour epic manner and endless sequences don't compensate for a lack of memorable melody or inspiration. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Charles Groves aren't to blame: listen to their ‘The Sad Doll’ from the Nursery Suite next. Here Elgar’s unique gift is sensitively displayed. He tenderly encapsulates the dreamy contentment of childhood with suave violins yet also demonstrates intent observation in the sullen clarinet musing.
 
If you’re in a fair-sized church choir you’re likely to perform Parry’s I was glad but you won’t do it, as here, with full orchestra and extra brass, nor will you sing the thrilling Vivats. You can just sit back and admire Ledger’s splendid performance. The instrumental introduction is taken very broadly to grand effect but the vocal presentation is kept pressing forward within its steady foundation.
 
Crown Imperial, Walton’s Coronation March for George VI, has an introduction full of expectation, purpose and momentum, especially in this 1977 account by Boult. There’s a sense of a vast pageant and a wealth of talent arriving. Walton and Boult can also be relaxed in the Elgarian manner but, more importantly the trio tune is warm, noble and seems naturally capable of aggrandizement. The fanfares which close the opening section are gloriously expanded in the coda so it seems a world of limitless opportunity opens before us. The Coronation Te Deum (CD 3 tr. 7) is a more modern take on fervour and exuberance. Unashamedly a display piece of breezy, even brash manner, Louis Frémaux brings to it both energy and precision of contrast. Though falling short of the grandeur, breadth and nobility of Parry’s I was glad yet it still packs a punch. Those soprano top As and even a B flat, and those double choir antiphonal and semi-chorus effects for cries of ‘Holy’ are memorable. Later there are special effects at 2:38 and 7:40 when Walton specifies boys’ voices in the first semi-chorus, here supplied by the Choristers of Worcester Cathedral. There’s a rich vein of noble assurance in the trio tune of Orb and Sceptre, his Coronation March for Elizabeth II. Its introduction is all holiday atmosphere and gaiety. You could even sense an appreciation of slapstick in Boult’s joyfully rhythmic vivacity. This is New Elizabethan life at a faster pace seems a shade less substantial than the world of Crown Imperial.
 
A total contrast comes in the shape of Vaughan Williams’ O taste and see. What comes across in this Chichester Cathedral Choir performance is the purity of unaccompanied prayer. It’s heard in the vast space of a cathedral which here serves to accentuate the intimacy of witness by a few voices seemingly relaxed in their trust in God. All change again for RVW’s arrangement of All people that on earth do dwell, a mighty public homage. There’s pageantry in those blazing trumpets but solemnity gets the better of King’s Choir’s measured clarity: the sparkle is missing.
 
Britten’s 1961 Jubilate Deo is as bubbling a setting as you’ll ever hear. King’s Choir’s performance bursts with energy yet also finds moments of reflection. Try the ‘be thankful unto him’ episode. There’s a touch of awe and mystery at ‘world without end’. The obbligato organ accompaniment is irrepressible and James Lancelot makes it sound really cheeky. In the Symphonic Suite from Gloriana Britten conveys in the musical language of the outset of the reign of Elizabeth II the spirit of the age of Elizabeth I. ‘The Tournament’ (tr. 12) is open air music: all energy, careering strings, buoyant brass fanfares. Then comes the ‘Green leaves are we, red rose our golden queen’ - an affectionate hymn of homage. This is borne by warm strings in stately procession - the need to believe in a cause. The March from the ‘Courtly Dances’ (tr. 13) has formality but also splash. The Coranto (0:49) is barn-dance like. The Pavane for brass (2:13) speaks of weighty majesty and serious state decisions. The Morris (4:38) has gypsy abandon in its flute and oboe leaps. The Galliard (5:45) is feathery, out of which emerges the more whimsical and folksy decoration of a solo quartet of all the string instruments. La Volta (7:34) allows all the orchestra to let its hair down. Listen for the trombones’ outrageous glissando at 8:19. Uri Segal’s performance is lively and it’s vividly recorded.
 
We are also treated to Elgar’s arrangement of the National Anthem. Here the forthright manner of the Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus represents all of us who wish to affirm allegiance. It makes a fitting close to a good spread of familiar and less familiar royal music. A little room might have been found for some madrigals from The triumphs of Oriana honouring Elizabeth I and some of Henry VIII’s own music. Personally I’d also have cut out Elgar’s Coronation March and had the entire Nursery Suite.
 
It’s right that the major royal music is choral: words force you to reflect on our need for leaders and justifying leadership.
 
-- Michael Greenhalgh, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Coronation Anthems (4): no 1, HWV 258 "Zadok the priest" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Benjamin Bayl (Organ), Alastair Ross (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 50 Secs. 
2.
Coronation Anthems (4): no 2, HWV 259 "Let thy hand be strengthened" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Alastair Ross (Harpsichord), Benjamin Bayl (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. 
3.
Coronation Anthems (4): no 3, HWV 260 "The king shall rejoice" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Alastair Ross (Harpsichord), Benjamin Bayl (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 13 Secs. 
4.
Coronation Anthems (4): no 4, HWV 261 "My heart is inditing" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Alastair Ross (Harpsichord), Benjamin Bayl (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 52 Secs. 
5.
Come, ye sons of art, away, Z 323 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Oliver Brookes (), Christopher Hogwood (Harpsichord), Christopher Hogwood (Organ)
Conductor:  David Munrow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1694; England 
Length: 15 Minutes 22 Secs. 
6.
Funeral Music for Queen Mary by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Susan Addison (Flatt Trumpet), David Blackadder (Flatt Trumpet), Stephen Saunders (Flatt Trumpet),
Philip Bainbridge (Flatt Trumpet)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1695; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 50 Secs. 
7.
Thou know'st, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, Z 58c by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Susan Addison (Flatt Trumpet), David Blackadder (Flatt Trumpet), Stephen Saunders (Flatt Trumpet),
Philip Bainbridge (Flatt Trumpet)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1695; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
8.
Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749; London, England 
Length: 13 Minutes 53 Secs. 
9.
Coronation Ode, Op. 44 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Stephen [Bass-Baritone Vocals] Roberts (), Richard [Tenor Vocal] Morton ()
Conductor:  Philip Ledger
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; England 
Length: 30 Minutes 20 Secs. 
10.
Imperial March, Op. 32 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 25 Secs. 
11.
O Hearken Thou, Op. 64 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 9 Secs. 
12.
Coronation March, Op. 65 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Noel Rawsthorne (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; England 
Length: 10 Minutes 46 Secs. 
13.
Coronation March "Crown Imperial" by Sir William Walton
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; England 
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
14.
Coronation Te Deum by Sir William Walton
Performer:  Francis Grier (Organ)
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952-1953; England 
Length: 9 Minutes 20 Secs. 
15.
Coronation March "Orb and Sceptre" by Sir William Walton
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
16.
O taste and see by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Richard Seal (Organ)
Conductor:  John Birch
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 42 Secs. 
17.
Jubilate Deo in C major by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  James Lancelot (Organ)
Conductor:  Philip Ledger
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
18.
God Save the Queen (National Anthem, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Philip Ledger
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1740; United Kingdom 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
19.
Nursery Suite: no 4, Sad Doll by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1930 
Length: 1 Minutes 52 Secs. 
20.
All People That on Earth Do Dwell by Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Benjamin Bayl (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 4 Minutes 56 Secs. 
21.
Gloriana: Symphonic Suite, Op 53a: 1st movement, The Tournament by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  Uri Segal
Period: Modern 
Written: 1953; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 58 Secs. 
22.
Gloriana: Symphonic Suite, Op 53a: 3rd movement, The Courtly Dances by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  Uri Segal
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
Length: 9 Minutes 51 Secs. 
23.
O Lord, make Thy servant Elizabeth by William Byrd
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 2 Minutes 43 Secs. 
24.
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Daniel Hyde (Organ), Alastair Ross (Harpsichord), David Blackadder (Trumpet),
Robin Blaze ()
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1713; London, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 3 Secs. 
25.
I Was Glad (Psalm 122), anthem for chorus & organ (or orchestra) by Charles H. Parry
Conductor:  Philip Ledger
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; United Kingdom 
Length: 6 Minutes 47 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Zadok the Priest: Zadok the Priest
Zadok the Priest: And all the people rejoic'd
Zadok the Priest: God save the King
Let thy hand be strengthened: Let thy hand be strengthened
Let thy hand be strengthened: Let justice and judgement
Let thy hand be strengthened: Alleluia!
The King shall rejoice: The King shall rejoice
The King shall rejoice: Exceeding glad shall he be
The King shall rejoice: Glory and worship
The King shall rejoice: Thou hast prevented him
The King shall rejoice: Alleluia!
My heart is inditing: My heart is inditing
My heart is inditing: Kings' daughters
My heart is inditing: Upon thy right hand
My heart is inditing: Kings shall be thy nursing fathers
Anthem: O Lord make thy servant Elizabeth
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Symphony (Largo - Allegro - Adagio)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Come ye sons of art away (ritornello, ct I verse & chorus)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Sound the trumpet (ct I & II verse)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Come ye sons of art away (ritornello & chorus)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Strike the viol (ct II verse & ritornello)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): The day that such a blessing gave (bass verse & chorus)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): Bid the Virtues (sop. verse)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): These are the sacred charms (bass verse)
Come ye sons of art away - Birthday Ode for Queen Mary (1694) Z323 (1990 Digital Remaster): See Nature rejoicing (sop. & bass verse & chorus)
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary 1695: March Z860i
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary 1695: Canzona Z860ii - March (Recessional)
Funeral Anthem of Queen Mary 1695: Thou knowest, Lord, Z.58c
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 1. Eternal source of light divine
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 2. The day that gave great Anna birth
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 3. Let all the wingèd race with joy
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 4. Let flocks and herds their fear forget -
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): The day that gave
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 5. Let rolling streams their gladness show
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 6. Kind Health descends on downy wings
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 7. The day that gave great Anna birth
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 8. Let Envy then conceal her head
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): 9. United nations shall combine -
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Eternal source of light divine): The day that gave
Music for the Royal Fireworks: I. Ouverture
Music for the Royal Fireworks: II. Bourrée
Music for the Royal Fireworks: III. La Paix
Music for the Royal Fireworks: IV. La Réjouissance
Music for the Royal Fireworks: V. Menuet I & II
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): I. Crown the King
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): IIa. The Queen
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): IIb. Daughter of ancient Kings
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): III. Britain, ask of thyself
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): IV. Hark, upon the hallowed air...Only let the heart be pure
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): V. Peace, gentle Peace
Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1987 - Remaster): VI. Land of hope and glory

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