Vaughan Williams: Riders to the Sea; Household Music; Flos campi

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Riders to the Sea; Household Music; Flos campi
PERFORMER: Linda Finnie, Karl Daymond, Lynne Dawson, Ingrid Attrot, Pamela Helen Stephen, Philip Dukes (viola)Northern Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea is one of the undoubted masterpieces of English twentieth-century music-theatre, yet it has received only intermittent stagings, disadvantaged in the eyes of promoters, no doubt, by its length (about forty minutes) and chamber instrumentation. The intensely private nature of the work makes it ideal for home listening, however, and this new recording under Hickox’s direction, with a brave trio of ladies in Finnie, Dawson and Attrot, leaves a poignant impression.


The composer evokes the sea-wracked lives of the Arran Islanders in Synge’s famous play, in one of his most concentrated and austerely poetic scores. The tragic lamenting of the women, who by the end of the opera have been robbed by the sea of all their menfolk, is marvellously encapsulated in his continuous recitative flecked with arioso; and when the stoic acceptance of ‘There isn’t anything more the sea can do to me’ at last yields something like a song, true catharsis is achieved.


The disc also includes the premiere recording of Household Music, three Welsh hymn tunes treated broadly in the manner of Dives and Lazarus, and the luxuriantly melismatic suite, Flos campi for viola (Philip Dukes in fine form), choir and orchestra. The Northern Sinfonia plays warmly throughout. Anthony Payne