This week we have learned the sad news of the death of conductor David Lloyd-Jones, at the age of 87. David was instrumental in founding Opera North in 1978, and there is a heartfelt tribute on their websitein his honour.
While Lloyd-Jones was a highly respected opera conductor, I have chosen to focus on his many and pioneering recordings of English music by way of a tribute. These include extensive surveys of the orchestral music of Stanford (including a symphony cycle), Alwyn, Bliss, Rawsthorne and Arnold Bax, including another survey of his symphonies, and Holst – with an important disc of his orchestral music released in 1998. Here is just a hint of his discography for Naxos, with highlights from some very impressive recordings:
Yesterday we learned the sad news of the death of Julee Cruise, at the age of 65.
Cruise will forever be associated with director David Lynch and the cult TV show Twin Peaks, which made its debut in 1990. Four years prior to that, when looking for a song for his equally influential film Blue Velvet, Lynch was looking for a song instead of his initial target, This Mortal Coil’s Song to the Siren. Composer Angelo Badalamenti stepped in, enlisting Cruise as the voice for his remarkable song Mysteries of Love, where the voice is supported by airy, padded synthesizers:
Four years later Badalamenti and Cruise collaborated again, this time on the theme for one of the most influential of all TV series. Twin Peaks‘ calling card was its remarkable music, and Falling embodied its glamour but also its darkness. Even now Badalamenti’s score is regarded as one of the most influential small screen soundtracks, its dark but luminous writing an utterly compelling blend – topped, of course, by the breathy control of Cruise, whose voice commands the work with remarkable subtlety.
Our brief look at the music used in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II continues with three lesser-known composers whose music was used at either end of the ceremony in 1953.
Receiving its first performance was the Processional by the new incumbent of the position Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Arthur Bliss. Ideally timed for the ceremony (with a procession that was in total more than six miles!) its orchestral opening builds steadily until the grand entry of the organ half way through. After its central section the piece builds to a rousing conclusion, led by organ, brass and drums:
Also heard before the service was the Epic March by John Ireland. This was effectively a piece of wartime propaganda, written in 1942 to boost the spirits of a flagging nation. When asked for the piece, Ireland wrote to Sir Adrian Boult, “What I have in mind is stern and purposeful rather than jolly and complacent”. The piece was first heard on the opening night of the 1942 season of Promenade concerts, and its stoic, noble tones were wholly suitable as part of the music before the Coronation service:
As the royal party and guests departed they heard the familiar strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches, nos. 1 & 4 respectively. Sandwiched between the two pieces was a new work by Sir Arnold Bax. The Coronation March has an unmistakably regal feel, some choice moments for the trombones, and a suitably royal chorale to finish:
As all UK-based readers of Arcana will surely know, it is a long weekend of celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. On these pages I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at some of the music used in the service of her Coronation, which took place a year to the day after her accession to the throne.
We begin with three pieces from Sir William Walton which have become some of his best-loved works. The first, Crown Imperial, is almost instantly recognisable, a piece that brings great pomp and circumstance to a ceremony without ever spilling over into over-patriotic bluster – very English, in short. Crown Imperial was commissioned by the BBC for the coronation of George VI in 1937, and was also used in the ceremony for Elizabeth II in 1953
At the close of the ceremony the congregation heard a new piece, Orb and Sceptre, for which Walton was paid £50 by the Arts Council in October 1952. The composer was candid about the new piece. “The Orb and Sceptre I wrote for her is goodish – not as good as Crown Imperial, but I did my best.” He was being modest, for there are still some good tunes contained within, a hint of Elgar in the regal second theme, and colourful writing for brass and percussion.
In November 1952 the organist of Westminster Abbey, William Mackie, persuaded Walton to write a Te Deum for the forthcoming service. With the chance to use the Queen’s Trumpeters, the composer agreed, writing a piece fit for the occasion, using the space of Westminster Abbey to perfection with bold orchestral writing, a spicy organ part and celebratory choral writing. Lady Susanna Walton, the composer’s wife, recalls, “The actual coronation was extraordinary…the Queen’s Trumpeters, standing on the clerestory with long silver trumpets and banners, made a dramatic impact”.
As you have probably heard, the Greek composer and synthesizer maestro Vangelis has very sadly died at the age of 79.
Over his illustrious career, Vangelis has given us some of the very best and most recognisable film scores, not to mention productive projects in pop and classical music. A pioneer right through his musical life, he signed off with a typically ambitious piece of work, the Juno to Jupiter album for Decca.
A celebration of his career would not be complete without the inclusion of his timeless, majestic score to Blade Runner, a game-changer when it appeared in 1982:
Perhaps his best-known film work dates from the previous year, the soundtrack to celebrated film Chariots of Fire:
Meanwhile his pop projects included a strong connection with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, which brought among many things I’ll Find My Way Home:
Meanwhile the Juno to Jupiter project mentioned above was a late work, featuring soprano Angela Gheorghiu:
One of the most-shared videos in the light of Vangelis’ passing has been Aegean Sea, a track from the 666 album released under his Aphrodite’s Child pseudonym in 1972: