Walton: Christopher Columbus, A Musical Journey (arr. Davis & Garland);Hamlet; Ophelia (arr. Mathieson)

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Christopher Columbus, A Musical Journey (arr. Davis & Garland);Hamlet; Ophelia (arr. Mathieson)
PERFORMER: Caroline Carragher (soprano), Jean Rigby (mezzo-soprano), Tom Randle (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Craig Ogden (guitar); BBC NO & Chorus of Wales/Richard Hickox
William Walton wrote nearly an hour’s music for Louis MacNeice’s radio play about Christopher Columbus’s epic voyage, broadcast in October 1942 on the 450th anniversary of his American landfall. The self-deprecating composer thought none of it worth salvaging. But Christopher Palmer’s Suite, previously recorded by Richard Hickox in Chandos’s Walton Edition, includes some stirring choral and orchestral music and a touching song. And the ‘concert scenario’ devised by Carl Davis and Patrick Garland for the 2002 Brighton Festival, with the complete score linked by excerpts from the play, reveals much more music of considerable value, including fascinating experiments with layered textures and chorus accompanied by percussion.


The big, open acoustic of the recording prompts father and son Julian and Jamie Glover into appropriately rhetorical delivery. Caroline Carragher and Jean Rigby sing prettily but are less convincing when required to double up as speakers. Tom Randle and Roderick Williams are reliable leaders of Columbus’s sailors and the native Americans respectively. Hickox and his Welsh choral and orchestral forces provide whole-hearted support. Walton’s 1947 Hamlet film score, heard in the form of Muir Mathieson’s continuous ‘poem for orchestra’ (again an alternative to a Palmer suite already recorded on Chandos), makes an equally enjoyable fill-up. Anthony Burton