COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Sir John in Love
PERFORMER: Donald Maxwell, Susan Gritton, Laura Claycomb, Sarah Connolly, Mark Padmore, Anne-Marie Owens; Sinfonia Chorus, Northern Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9928(2)
According to Michael Kennedy, writing in Opera Grove, ‘To ignore [Vaughan Williams’s five operas] is to ignore some of the finest and most beautiful music written by an Englishman.’ Yet, apart from a production of The Pilgrim’s Progress at Covent Garden in 1951, no major British company has ever staged one. That Sir John in Love, based like Verdi’s Falstaff on The Merry Wives of Windsor, should have suffered such neglect is a mystery, for it is a glorious work: lyrical, Romantic, richly melodic and full of warmth and wit. And by using Shakespeare’s text (along with 10 folksongs), it is not merely truer to its inspiration than Verdi’s treatment, but has a libretto of the first order.
Fortunately Richard Hickox and Chandos have followed up their superb 1998 account of The Pilgrim’s Progress with this recording. Again, it is very much an ensemble piece, and there is not a weak link in the largely British cast. Outstanding among them, however, are Susan Gritton and Mark Padmore as Anne and Fenton; Matthew Best and Sarah Connolly as Ford and his wife; and the young German baritone Stephan Loges as the Host of the Garter Inn. Donald Maxwell is a sympathetic Falstaff. And the Northern Sinfonia and Sinfonia Chorus perform with exquisitely articulated verve. An absolute delight.