Music for a Royal Wedding

Sunday, April 24, 2011

From commemorative plates to imitation engagement rings, it seems like everyone wants a little piece of Friday's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Britain’s Silva Screen Records could be accused of seeking to cash in on the action with "Music for a Royal Wedding," a collection of works that would be expected at any wedding ceremony, royal or otherwise. And since we don’t actually know what will be performed at the Royal Wedding – it won’t be announced until their wedding day – the collection has an air of speculation about it. Nevertheless, it’s hard to find fault with the selections on this, our Album of the Week, especially when expertly performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, organist Rick Clark, and several military bands including The Band of the Prince of Wales Division.

What’s more, we do know a few things: the royal couple has engaged two choirs, a symphony orchestra and two military brass ensembles. And it's a safe bet that anything too off-the-beaten-path won't find a place at the carefully scripted ceremony. By that logic, several of the pieces on this collection could easily turn up in Friday's pageant. Eleven of the sixteen tracks are penned by British composers, from Walton’s Crown Imperial to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 to Arthur Benjamin’s Fanfare For A Festive Occasion.

Nor is the collection all from Edwardian times. Some contemporary music has found its way into British royal weddings, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu from his Requiem, a somber piece, and William Walton's score for the Laurence Olivier film version of Henry V, the latter of which Prince Charles used for his second marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles. But for sheer a royal classic, there's Mendelssohn's Wedding March, which w as played at the wedding of Queen Victoria's daughter in 1858 to Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia and remains a gold standard in weddings throughout the English-speaking world.

Music for a Royal Wedding
Various Ensembles
Silva America

Q2's Album of the Week from The New Canon:

We may never be able to peer into Steve Reich’s actual brain matter, but his musical works—strengthening with the composer’s age like a good Barolo—offer a peek into the kinetic and fervent energy that propels his neurons. While his works have consistently proved exhilarating, however, it was not until 2009 that Reich netted the Pulitzer Prize for music with his Double Sextet. Commissioned by new-music ensemble eighth blackbird, twelve players bolster one another in interlocking musical formations that fit together like a clean game of Tetris. Here, the six members of eighth blackbird play against themselves in a pairing of “live” musicians against a recorded loop, a Reich trademark if ever there was one.

You can hear the influence that Reich has had over these musicians in their career (which includes some upstanding recordings of works by Joan Tower, Jennifer Higdon, George Crumb and Frederic Rzewski), and it’s thrilling to hear these figurative children of Reich pay homage to the master. The mood carries over with 2x5, written for the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The house band of Bang on a Can, whose founders (Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe) all trace their musical roots to Reich, the All-Stars have a knack for blending Reich’s pop-rock and neoclassical idioms. It’s a great chaser and complement to Double Sextet, though fair warning: Best not to spin this before bed lest you remain wired all night.

Steve Reich: Double Sextet, 2x5
Eighth Blackbird, Bang on a Can


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Comments [10]

David from Flushing

While the music at the wedding was well written and well performed as one would expect, I was disappointed at some of the selections.

The use of the coronation pieces seems ill-advised for anything less than massive processions. A bride doesn't quite float down the aisle with the molasses of "I was glad." Likewise, the recessional had no particular qualities that lent it to the action at hand.

I suppose one had to play the National Anthem as the Queen was present, but to do so with the two principals facing the wall with their backs to the Queen was awkward. Another questionable incident was the recession of the clergy with the congregation seated.

The "Ubi charitas et amor" was very beautiful. Given the excellence of the choir, one wonders why congregational hymns were included.

Apr. 30 2011 04:21 PM
rtroth from Berkeley Heights, NJ

I'd be very surprised if William & Kate do not include at least one of Princess Diana's favourite pieces.

Although more formal than many of us might choose, the hymn "I Vow to Thee, My Country," would be a suitable choice for this couple.

One thing of which we can be sure: the music will be plenteous, lush, & appropriate.

Apr. 27 2011 10:40 PM
Dr. Duane Meyer from Upper Montclair, NJ

Over the years, I've played for 140+ weddings. Most requested were the Mendelssohn & Wagner pieces. I also liked, for recessional, Stanlley's Trumpet Tune; it moves 'em out! For brides who got sloppy & arrived 15+ min late, I used to improvise on Beatles tunes, to the delight of the Episcopal priest who waited with me.

Apr. 27 2011 09:45 PM
LSparkle from Los Angeles, CA

If I ever marry, I want to use Widor's Toccata as my recessional and was surprised when Prince Edward used it at the conclusion of his wedding to Sophie Rhys-Jones. Perhaps William and Kate will do the same?

Apr. 26 2011 03:26 PM
Neil Schnall

I dunno.... I'm rather enjoying my slothfulness, at the moment. I probably should do some work instead of... this.

Apr. 26 2011 01:25 PM
Michael Meltzer

Better than proving a sloth!

Apr. 26 2011 11:56 AM
Neil Schnall

Not to be confused with ploughing a trough (understandable though it be).

Apr. 26 2011 11:03 AM
Michael Meltzer

Mr. Schnall is correct, "betrothal" is simply an older form of "engagement." To betroth is to promise oneself, or even older, "to plight one's troth."
It is too bad that there are no choral offerings in the list. The Vaughan Williams "Old Hundredth," (All People That on Earth Do Dwell) although written for Queen Elizabeth's coronation, would certainly fit right in. It is by far Vaughan Williams' best selling piece and likely never aired on WQXR ( you don't usually play hymn-tunes, probably a good thing).

Apr. 26 2011 06:02 AM
Neil Schnall

I believe Jeff used the term "betrothed" incorrectly this morning. A betrothal is a promise or contract for a future marriage. It does not refer to the actual act of marriage, as suggested by "when they are finally betrothed on Friday". The correct word would be "wed".

Apr. 25 2011 01:08 PM
slmnyc from New York

The first time I heard Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary (then ascribed to Purcell) was at my sister's wedding in 1964. The organist at the time in the Episcopal church we grew up in was also a priest. On liturgical grounds, he refused to play either the Mendelssohn's Wedding March or the piece from Lohengrin, saying -- with all due respect to Queen Victoria, that neither had anything to do with Christianity.

Apr. 25 2011 10:25 AM

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The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.