Walton: The Quest; The Wise Virgins Suite; Siesta

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WORKS: The Quest; The Wise Virgins Suite; Siesta
PERFORMER: English Northern Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555868
‘More holiness tomorrow’, Walton wrote on his draft score of The Quest when leaving off work for the day – summing up his difficulty in finding inspiration, and cues for genuine dance movement, in the lofty scenario adapted from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. It was probably only the detailed timed synopsis provided by the choreographer Frederick Ashton that spurred him on to complete 40 minutes of music in five weeks, in time for the premiere by the Sadler’s Wells company in April 1943. The ballet, conceived as an uplifting piece for wartime audiences, has not stood the test of time. But it has some good, tuneful, occasionally dramatic music which deserves revival, especially in the composer’s centenary year. And, using Walton’s original scoring for the first time on disc (Chandos’s recording is of a version for larger orchestra by other hands), David Lloyd-Jones and the ENP make the best possible case for it. Their well recorded programme is rounded out by two more works associated with Ashton: the suite from the 1940 ballet The Wise Virgins, colourfully orchestrated from Bach cantata movements and an organ prelude; and the 1926 Siesta, used twice by the choreographer but originally a concert piece of lazy charm. Anthony Burton