WORKS: The Island; The Trees So High
PERFORMER: David Wilson-Johnson (baritone); Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9181 DDD
Two little known British works which reveal many riches on repeated hearings. Sainton’s output was confined to short orchestral works, songs and a film score – for John Huston’s Moby Dick. The Island is a sound portrait of a seascape in all seasons ‘where fir trees come down to the rocks’. The music is strong and virile when it portrays the sea’s more tempestuous moods and it recalls influences of Ravel and Delius’s Song of the High Hills.
The Trees So High, greatly admired by Vaughan Williams, is concerned with the transience of young love and of a boy, married at 16, a father at 17 and dead at 18 (Hadley had been wounded in the Great War). The Philharmonia strings excel in the first movement, tracing the contours of the woods, the height of the trees and the breezes playing in their topmost branches. The spectral scherzo, ideally setting the scene for the tragedy of the last movement employing baritone and chorus, is strongly reminiscent of Mahler and its central plaintive melody is painfully beautiful.
David Wilson-Johnson sings with gravity and sensitivity and Matthias Bamert draws a deeply felt and committed performance from the Philharmonia Choir and Orchestra. Strongly recommended. Ian Lace