Music for a Royal Wedding

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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
Nonesuch