Cantata for Baritone Solo, SSAA chorus and orchestra
Following the revelatory release of A London Symphony in its original version, the publication of Willow-wood is another landmark in our deepening understanding of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Last performed in 1909, the year of The Wasps and On Wenlock Edge, this setting of four sonnets by the Victorian poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti has recently been reconstructed from the autograph score, and orchestral material made available on hire from the publisher.
Reflecting the veiled eroticism and sombre atmosphere of the texts, the music is dark-hued and sensuous, its wordless female choir looking forward to the Five Mystical Songs, A Sea Symphony and Flos Campi. In this heightened atmosphere of Pre-Raphaelite passion, the composer's richly chromatic harmonies sound an unfamiliar note, and the piece, which lasts about 14 minutes, will not only fascinate specialists, but also have a broad appeal to many lovers of English music, for whom it will be a significant discovery.
A recording of Willow-wood on the Naxos label is scheduled for release early in 2006.