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Boughton: The Immortal Hour / Melville, Dawson, Davies, etc

Album Summary

>Boughton, Rutland : The Immortal Hour, opera
Performers Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

'This delightful opera is not to be missed' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Vividly atmospheric. Quite exceptional on all counts' (Gramophone)

'This superb complete recording was a salutary shock: the opera is a kind of masterpiece, bleak, passionate and inspired ... Enthusiastically recommended' (BBC Music Magazine Top 1000 CDs Guide)

'I was quite bowled over [by] this delightful opera' (Gramophone)

'Not to be missed' (Classic CD)

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
The Immortal Hour is part of theatrical folklore: in London in the early 1920s it ran, unprecedentedly, for 216 consecutive performances and, shortly afterwards, for a further 160 at the first of several revivals. Within a decade it had been played a thousand times. Many in those audiences returned repeatedly, fascinated by the otherworldly mystery of the plot (it concerns the love of a mortal king, Eochaidh, for the faery princess Etain and the destruction of their happiness by her nostalgic longing for the Land of the Ever Young) and by the gentle, lyrical simplicity of its music. In the bleak aftermath of 1918, with civil war in Ireland, political instability at home and the names of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin emerging from obscurity into the headlines, what blessed escapism this blend of Celtic myth and folk-tinged pentatonic sweetness must have been. Boughton's score still has the power to evoke that world, immediately and effortlessly.

It's quiet, sweet music, muted in colour and softly plaintive, and whenever the plot demands more than this the opera sags. Midir, the visitant from the Land of the Ever Young who lures Etain away from the mortal world, really needs music of dangerously heady, Dionysiac incandescence, but Boughton's vocabulary can run to nothing more transported than the prettily lilting Faery Song and some pages of folksy lyricism with a few showy high notes. No less seriously the music has little dramatic grip. Despite all this, The Immortal Hour does have a quality, difficult to define, that's genuinely alluring. It's there in the touching purity of Etain's music (and how movingly Anne Dawson sings the role).

It's there in the moments of true darkness that the music achieves: Dalua, the tormented Lord of Shadow conjures up something of the sombre shudder of the supernatural world. The performance could hardly speak more eloquently for the opera. Alan G Melville allows the music to emerge from and retreat into shadowy silences; all the principal singers are accomplished and the superb chorus has been placed so as to evoke a sense of space.

Notes & Reviews:

A luscious, lyrical work, strongly reminiscent of Ralph Vaughan Williams, in what is probably the one recording that we will ever see of it, Alan G. Melville conducting the English Chamber Orchestra, with Anne Dawson, Patricia Taylor, Roderick Kennedy, David Wilson-Johnson, Valery Hill, Roger Bryson, and Maldwyn Davies. ~ Bruce Eder


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Works Details

>Boughton, Rutland : The Immortal Hour, opera
  • Performers: Rutland Boughton; Roger Bryson (Bass Baritone); Maldwyn Davies (Tenor); Anne Dawson (Soprano); Roderick Kennedy (Voice); David Wilson-Johnson (Bass-Baritone)
  • Conductor: Alan Melville
  • Running Time: 2 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1914