In a new recording to be created for Somm Records on Tuesday 11 & Wednesday 12 May, Orchestra of the Swan shows the two sides of British composer William Walton, from his stirring score to Laurence Olivier’s 1944 adaption of Henry V, to his youthful and scandalous Façade, which sets the extraordinary poetry of Edith Sitwell. Kevin Whately, Roderick Williams and Tamsin Dalley join Orchestra of the Swan in the spoken roles of both works.

Orchestra of the Swan records Walton’s heroic incidental music from Henry V in Edward Watson’s intriguing arrangement for chamber ensemble: flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, trumpet, two cellos, percussion, piano and harpsichord. Henry V is narrated by English actor Kevin Whately, best known for his character in the crime dramas Inspector Morse and Lewis.

The 1944 Technicolor adaption of Henry V, which was directed by and starred Laurence Olivier, was created as a morale booster for Britain as it neared the end of World War II, with Shakespeare’s tale of the remarkable British victory over the French at Agincourt serving as a rallying cry. Henry V was released to critical acclaim, with Olivier winning an Honorary Academy Award for his outstanding achievement in creating the film.

Olivier described Walton’s music as “The most wonderful score I’ve ever heard on a film”, adding that “I’ve always said that if it weren’t for the music I don’t think Henry V would have been a success.”

Henry V was the tenth film for which Walton composed incidental music; he had previously written incidental music for Olivier’s 1936 As You Like It and would go on to score his Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955).

Baritone Roderick Williams and mezzo-soprano Tamsin Dalley join the orchestra in Walton’s scandalous Façade, which premiered to great furore when the composer was just 19. Scored for a small ensemble, Façade sets a series of surreal poems by Dame Edith Sitwell to music, with the poems originally narrated through a megaphone from behind a painted curtain. Early reviews condemned the work but it has since gained acceptance, with the music also behind Frederick Ashton’s Façade ballet.

Considered one of the leading 20th-century British composers, William Walton (1902-1983) represents the period in English music between Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten. Besides his film scores, his Viola Concerto is regarded as one of the most important 20th-century works for the instrument, and his Crown Imperial, and Orb and Sceptre, marches were first performed at the respective coronations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

Walton’s works will be recorded in the Stratford Play House, in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, where the Orchestra of the Swan is based.