The British Isles: A Musical Tour – East Anglia

Plain, dull and flat, you say? But the sky! – the sea! You can enjoy both in the bracing air of coastal towns such as Aldeburgh, or relish the spaciousness of Norfolk and the Fens reflected in some of RVW’s most meditative creatiaons. If you want to enjoy civilisation there’s always…

Howells – Collegium regale
King’s College Chapel has insired its fair share of choral masterpieces, including music by Orlando Gibbons and Herbert Howells. A personal friend of the choir’s director Boris Ord, Howells was inspired by the choir and chapel to compose the first and some would say the greatest of his canticles, Collegium regale (1944).

Honourable runner-up is Trinity College, where Charles Villiers Stanford was organist when just an undergraduate from 1873, finally resigning in 1882 as his time was increasingly taken up by London commitments. He nonetheless became professor of music in Cambridge in 1887 and wrote his charming Service in G for the choir in 1904.

Britten – Albert Herring
Every year a music festival is held: after enjoying a concert, perhaps at Blythburgh Church or the Maltings Concert Hall, you can buy a fine bundle of fish and chips and sit on the sea front. Benjamin Britten founded the festival, having settled there subsequent to his return to England in 1942. The Jubilee Hall is one local landmark cited in his opera Albert Herring. The following are within hailing distance…

Britten – The Little Sweep
Britten’s opera for children is set in Iken Hall; other local towns and landmarks are mentioned in the opera, such as Snape…

Britten – Peter Grimes
Britten bought the converted Old Mill late in 1937; he wrote his Piano Concerto there in 1938, and his most famous composition, the opera Peter Grimes, in 1942-45. Nearby is the Maltings Concert Hall, convened to its present purpose by 1967, for which Britten composed The Building of the House.

King’s Lynn
Vaughan Williams – Norfolk Rhapsody
Vaughan Williams spent three days in King’s Lynn, January 1905, listening to folk songs sung by sailors and fishermen, jotting down 40 tunes. At least three of these – ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’, ‘A Bold Young Sailor’ and ‘On Board a Ninety-eight’ – were used in his Norfolk Rhapsody (1906), which he subsequently revised after his studies with Ravel, replacing its original rousing end for a more reflective, pastoral coda. Another East Anglian-inspired RVW work, In the Fen Country, is highly evocative of the spacious mystery of the region but contains no specific folk tunes.

Classic CD magazine, 1998


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