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Venus and Adonis / Savitri

John Blow 25 May 1954, Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

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Several of Music Preserved s releases are of revivals: works that we take for granted now as part of the fabric of musical culture but had been forgotten over the ages.

Venus and Adonis was only revived in 1920, in Glastonbury, and still counted as a slight and obscure entertainment when it was presented by the fledgling Aldeburgh Festival, in a staging at the tiny Jubilee Hall. This hall, much maligned over the years, was the ideal space for so intimate a work, as noted by both Alec Robertson in the broadcast introduction and by John Steane in his booklet note.

Now we recognise Venus and Adonis both as the influential predecessor to Purcell s Dido and Aeneas, in narrative, structure and even musical content, and as a beautifully written, psychologically acute masque in its own right. Some of that recognition at least is due to the success of the present performance, and the championship of Imogen Holst (who edited and promoted the score) and Charles Mackerras, who conducted it with such lan and prescient understanding of an idiom still being explored.

The sparse but perfectly judged companion was the chamber opera by Imogen s father, Gustav. The music creates in Savitri herself, as John Steane remarks, a woman with the strength of inner calm and (remarkably achieved in so short a space) a wonderfully complete sensibility, the great depth of her emotions not precluding the prompt use of an alert intelligence. The coupling, albeit unusual, is no less striking or effective, and the sense of joining the audience in the Jubilee Hall over half a century ago is palpable