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Track(s) taken from CDA67770

The Twelve

First line:
Without arms or charm of culture
commissioned by Cuthbert Simpson, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and first performed there on 16 May 1965 under the direction of Sydney Watson; orchestrated by Walton for the 900th celebrations of Westminster Abbey in January 1966
author of text
commissioned by Cuthbert Simpson, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, at the same time as Walton's music; the text as set differs in several places from the version of the poem subsequently published

Julian Empett (bass), Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Raphael Taylor-Davies (treble), William Rowland (treble), Benjamin Turner (countertenor), Julian Stocker (tenor), Robert Quinney (organ)
Recording details: February 2009
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by David Trendell
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: August 2010
Total duration: 10 minutes 50 seconds

Cover artwork: St Peter enthroned as Pope, initial from the Litlyngton Missal (1383/4).
Westminster Abbey Library / Copyright © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Other recordings available for download

Polyphony, Stephen Layton (conductor), James Vivian (organ)
Oscar Simms (treble), Andrew Davies (bass), Tom Williams (countertenor), Thomas Guthrie (bass), Christopher Dixon (bass), Temple Church Choir, Roger Sayer (conductor), Greg Morris (organ)


'A sumptuous banquet of choral delight awaits the hungry listener, laid out in three carefully balanced courses, to be savoured slowly, the whole programme sung and played with superlative skill … James O'Donnell, his Westminster musicians and the Hyperion team have produced another jewel of a disc' (Gramophone)

'The choir sounds best in Stanford's quintessentially Anglican Service in B flat and in Walton's The Twelve (1965) to a text by Auden. Its flamboyant organ part and fugal 'Twelve as the winds and the months' finale are intriguin and uplifting' (The Observer)

'This superb CD … now that sung Matins is virtually extinct in all but the most august establishments, Stanford's Te Deum and Jubilate from his B flat Service have become comparative rarities, and they make a terrific impact here, organ and choir combining with exultant, spine-tingling resonance … this is cathedral choral singing at its finest and most inspiring' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This glorious disc from Hyperion, celebrating what the Abbey choir is all about … the centrepiece of the disc is Byrd's glorious Mass for five voices, superbly delivered in a performance of outstanding clarity and sensitivity under James O'Donnell … Dupré adds his gloss to a Bach cantata movement to provide Robert Quinney and the Abbey organ a magnificent showpiece with which to round off this sumptuous musical feast with suitable exuberance … Hyperion's excellent recording perfectly captures the unique atmosphere. It's as good as being there—without the babble of tourists' (International Record Review)
William Walton’s The Twelve is one of the relatively few works intended for liturgical use for which both music and text were commissioned together. In this case, the idea arose in 1964 when the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Cuthbert Simpson, invited two of the college’s most celebrated alumni to collaborate on a new anthem. The substantial, eleven-minute work that resulted was first performed in Christ Church Cathedral in May 1965 under the direction of Sydney Watson. The composer had earlier expressed the opinion that W H Auden’s text was ‘obscure and difficult to set’, but in truth Walton frequently had similar problems with texts and often found that inspiration came slowly. Happily in this case he successfully overcame the difficulties, producing a work of exceptional musical and emotional scope and variety that seems to raise its sights rather beyond the world of the church anthem and towards the cantata. Walton also surely does justice to what is generally thought to be a highly imaginative and resourceful poetic text. Among the highpoints are the beautiful central duet (‘O Lord, my God, Though I forsake Thee Forsake me not’), and the exuberant fugal finale (‘Twelve as the winds and the months’). The striking opening passage for solo baritone is typical of Walton’s imaginative writing for solo voices throughout. It also features a notably virtuosic organ part. The composer subsequently orchestrated the anthem for use in the 900th anniversary celebrations of Westminster Abbey in January 1966.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2010

The Twelve de William Walton est l’une de ces rares œuvres à usage liturgique dont la musique fut commandée en même temps que le texte. Ici, l’idée germa quand, en 1964, Cuthbert Simpson, doyen de Christ Church (Oxford), invita deux des plus célèbres anciens élèves du collège à collaborer à un nouvel anthem. La substantielle pièce de onze minutes qui en résulta fut créée en la cathédrale de Christ Church en mai 1965, sous la direction de Sydney Watson. Walton avait auparavant déclaré que le texte de W. H. Auden était «obscur et difficile à mettre en musique» mais, à la vérité, il rencontrait souvent ce genre de problèmes avec les textes, l’inspiration lui venant, à son goût, lentement. Par bonheur, il est parvenu à surmonter ses difficultés pour nous offrir cette œuvre exceptionnelle d’envergure musicalo-émotionnelle et de variété, qui semble quitter la sphère de l’anthem liturgique pour se hisser vers la cantate. À n’en pas douter, Walton rend aussi justice à ce qui est généralement considéré comme un texte poétique plein d’imagination et d’invention. Parmi les moments phares de cette œuvre, citons le splendide duo central («O Lord, my God, Though I forsake Thee Forsake me not»), et l’exubérant final fugué («Twelve as the winds and the months»). Le saisissant passage initial pour baryton solo est emblématique de l’écriture inventive que Walton ne laisse d’adresser aux voix solo; il présente aussi une partie d’orgue remarquablement virtuose. Par la suite, Walton orchestra cet anthem pour la célébration du neuf centième anniversaire de l’abbaye de Westminster, en janvier 1966.

extrait des notes rédigées par James O'Donnell © 2010
Français: Hypérion

William Waltons Werk The Twelve ist eine von relativ wenigen Kompositionen für den liturgischen Gebrauch, bei der sowohl Musik als auch Text gleichzeitig in Auftrag gegeben wurden. In diesem Falle kam die Idee dazu 1964 auf, als der Dekan der Christ Church in Oxford, Cuthbert Simpson, zwei berühmte Alumni des Colleges bat, zusammen ein neues Anthem zu schreiben. Das Ergebnis war ein gewichtiges, elf-minütiges Werk, das im Mai 1965 in der Christ Church Cathedral unter der Leitung von Sydney Watson uraufgeführt wurde. Der Komponist hatte zuvor angemerkt, dass der Text von W. H. Auden „obskur und schwierig zu vertonen“ sei, doch stieß Walton auch bei anderen Texten oft auf derartige Probleme und es brauchte meist eine gewisse Zeit, bis sich die Inspiration einstellte. Glücklicherweise konnte er in diesem Falle die Schwierigkeiten erfolgreich überwinden und er komponierte ein Werk von außergewöhnlicher musikalischer und emotionaler Reichweite und Vielfältigkeit, dessen Niveau über das eines geistlichen Anthems hinausgeht und eher als Kantate bezeichnet werden müsste. Walton wird sicherlich auch dem Text gerecht, der als besonders phantasievoll, einfallsreich und poetisch gilt. Zu den Höhepunkten gehört das wunderschöne zentrale Duett („O Herr, mein Gott, verlasse mich nicht, auch wenn ich dich verlasse“) und das überschwängliche fugale Finale („Zwölf, wie die Winde und die Monate“). Die eindrucksvolle Anfangspassage für Solo-Bariton ist charakteristisch für Waltons phantasievolle Behandlung von Solostimmen. Der Orgelpart ist besonders virtuos gesetzt. Der Komponist orchestrierte das Anthem später für den Festakt anlässlich des 900-jährigen Jubiläums der Westminster Abbey im Januar 1966.

aus dem Begleittext von James O'Donnell © 2010
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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