, January 2009
Vaughan Williams’s wartime film music was of the highest quality. The Powell/Pressburger movie 49th Parallel (1941), made in the early years of the war, inspired a Prelude with a nostalgic patriotic feeling. Coastal Command (1942) was a dramatized documentary which centred on the romantic profiles of the Catalina flying-boats, resulting in warmly evocative music, with echoes from the composer’s symphonic writing. The even more imaginative (1943) score for The Story of a Flemish Farm (a true story about personal sacrifice which enabled wartime escape to England) brings similar resonances. The masterly evocation of Dawn in the Barn clearly anticipates the Sixth Symphony, while the haunting sequence The Dead Man’s Kit evokes the Sinfonia Antartica. Elizabeth in England (1955-7), another documentary, narrated by Alec Clunes, has its Elizabeth hey-nonny flavor, but there is a haunting Poet sequence which introduces a magically gentle tune, also used in the Sea Symphony, Finally comes a celebration of The Queen, not just regal but thoughtful in restrained nobility. Andrew Penny is a splendid advocate in performances eloquent in their mood-painting. The recording is bright and full, if rather two-dimensional.