July 12, 2020

English music at the OCNE

Works by Vaughan Williams and Holst. Jane Archibald and Benjamin Appl. National Orchestra and Choir of Spain. Director: Eiji Oue National Auditorium. Madrid, 9-II-2020.

The public who attended – with enough clearings on Sunday – to the weekly concert of the National Orchestra and Choir surely took a pleasant surprise. Much did it with the claim of “The Planets” of Holst, whose music is very familiar to them both directly and via “Star Wars.” He did not disappoint them, since from the powerful and very loud “Mars, the bearer of war” that opens the piece remained a great level, with energy but also nuance and detail in the lyricism of “Venus” or the contrasts of “Saturn ”, Holst’s favorite piece among them. We got the echoes of Debussy in “Mercury, the winged messenger”, Dukas in “Uranus, the magician” or Ravel in the final part “Neptune, the mystic”, with its ethereal choral final, which contrasts with the “Mars “Initial.

But the surprise was for many “Dona nobis pacem” by Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), a kind of requiem about to start both the Second World War and the Spanish civil war. He and Holst were close friends and perfectly represent the English music of their time before Britten arrived. In fact, in the 1930s, Williams became the most recognized composer in British music, fame that grew after the deaths of Elgar, Delius and Holst in 1934. “Dona nobis pacem” was written and released in 1936. Williams wrote this prayer to peace between the grief of the First World War and the fear of the outbreak of the Second, adapting texts of the Catholic mass, three poems by Walt Whitmann, a political speech and a selection of fragments of the Bible. The score goes through a wide range of styles, from the neobrahmsian song of “Toward the Unknown Region”, the power of its “Fourth Symphony” (1934) and even the energy of “The Old King Cole” of the twenties, but Without looking like a compilation of previous music.

The texts of both the very correct soloists were intelligible, highlighting the sweetness of soprano Jane Archibald, as well as the choir, in addition to projecting the Castilian translation on screens. Eiji Oue put rhythmic clarity, shaped the most melodic passages and impregnated his most powerful parts, those that recall the Verdian “Dies Irae”.

An excellent concert that follows the rising path of the OCNE and was long cheered by the attendees.


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