Beyond My Dream: Music for Greek Plays

“Music of undeniable beauty.”

The Globe 25 May 1912

World premiere recording!

In 1911, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote music for three plays by Euripides – The Bacchae, Electra and Iphigenia in Tauris – then newly translated into English verse. Isadora Duncan had danced for the composer and asked him to write music for her to dance to within The Bacchae, and he also worked with the translator, Gilbert Murray. A planned production of Iphigenia in Tauris did not come off, but there was a public performance of the music alone in May 1912. It was described at the time as being music of ‘undeniable beauty’ and Gilbert Murray wrote that the music was set ‘in my judgement extraordinarily well’. The mezzo soprano soloist, Heather Lowe in her recording debut, sometimes sings and sometimes recites the words of the choruses, accompanied by female voices (and additional soloists) from Joyful Company of Singers and by Britten Sinfonia conducted by Alan Tongue.

Alan Tongue transcribed the music from parts and scores in the British Library, realising some of it from short score. Albion Records is proud to present more than an hour of unknown but lovely music, from the early maturity of Vaughan Williams, now recorded for the first time.

Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust logo
Here is music of real stature, which has languished for over a century waiting to be discovered. It is hard to imagine any admirer of the composer who will not want to acquire it as soon as possible…

… As he has done twice before for Albion, Tongue offers a compelling first impression of a previously unknown score. (His other premieres are of the Mass, and of the choral masque, The Bridal Day.) He shapes these scores brilliantly, with conviction and obvious affection, leading glowing performances by the Britten Sinfonia and the women of Peter Broadbent’s Joyful Company of Singers. The mezzo-soprano roles are taken by young artist Heather Lowe, in her debut recording. She is possessor of a voice of extraordinary depth and appealing color and has marvelous dramatic instincts.

Ronald E. Grames

I think anyone who hears just a couple of minutes of any of these scores will recognise VW as the composer, not least through the use of modal harmony and also, especially in the Iphigenia music, the influence of folk song.

It wouldn’t be right to describe these three scores as hidden masterpieces. That said, they contain a good deal of impressive and often beautiful music and they expand our knowledge of what VW was up to during a crucial phase of his developing maturity as a composer. As such, I can only recommend this disc very strongly to all admirers of the composer. That recommendation can be all the stronger thanks to the fine performances …

…This is an important release of hitherto unknown music by Vaughan Williams.

John Quinn
Musicweb International
Click to read complete review.

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The Bacchae 
Thou immaculate on high 11’47

Onward O labouring tread  11’47
2  for the ships of Troy  6’54

Iphigenia in Tauris 
Realised from short score by Alan Tongue
1 Prelude 2’06
2 Dark of the sea  8’38
3 Bird of the sea rocks 9’08
4 Oh, fair the fruits of Leto blow 6’53
5 Go forth in bliss 3.06

CD1 total playing time: 62’44


Heather Lowe  Mezzo Soprano
Joyful Company of Singers  Music Director Peter Broadbent
Britten Sinfonia  Leader Magnus Johnston
Alan Tongue  Conductor