The Plymouth-born composer and bandmaster Louis Emanuel (1819–c1889) composed his entertainingly over-the-top ballad The Desert
around 1860, probably for performance in Vauxhall Gardens where he was music director from 1845. The swirling chromatic scales—depicting the wheeling vulture—and pounding repeated notes of the piano introduction irresistibly suggest silent-movie music. After the ‘parched’ music of ‘No stream can I find’, and a brief lyrical interlude as the stranded hero thinks of family and friends, the vulture circles ever closer. Then, with a change from ominous E flat minor to E flat major, a bell tinkles softly in the distance: cue for our hero to celebrate his imminent rescue in a rollicking 6/8 metre.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2011