William Walton: Two Pieces from Henry V
No.2 – Touch Her Soft Lips and Part
William Walton was asked to compose the music for the 1944 film of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Walton himself did not create a suite from the music he composed for this film, however Sir Malcolm Sargent and Muir Mathieson did, with both of the suites gaining fair popularity. What has stayed at the forefront are two gentle works, scored for string orchestra.
The second piece of the duo is entitled Touch Her Soft Lips and Part and the music originally accompanied the scene where the soldiers are departing for France and saying goodbye to their women. The opening violin theme is lilting and has a tinge of sadness woven through it. The movement of the strings and where Walton has placed certain dotted rhythms show the yearning from the couples bidding farewell to each other. The main theme is repeated a number of times, each time just as mournful as the first.
Both of the works in the suite deal with grief in different ways. The first looks at death, the other saying goodbye not knowing whether you’ll see your loved ones again. Both are very powerful and delicate in their own ways.
Ⓒ Alex Burns