Dear Bite-Back, 

Let me make it clear that I am writing in my personal capacity, and not as a spokesperson for SOMM Recordings.

Your review of SOMM’s Walton Centenary CD is technically wrong on so many counts.  Of course your opinions are as valid as anyone else’s, but may I offer you a few tips from over half-a-century of reviewing experience?

There is too much of you in this review. Okay, so you conducted an amateur performance of Christopher Palmer’s Henry V scenario, but that should make no difference to your review. I have never conducted Gotterdammerung, but I know how to give it an objective review.

You seem to imply that Ted Watson’s chamber reduction was created recently. If you read my insert-notes you will learn that it came into existence over a quarter-of-a-century ago, indeed to go back-to-back with Façade performances recited by Lady Susana Walton and Richard Baker.

And it works! It is right that it accentuates the medieval colours, and other, more discerning reviewers, have admired that fact.

You make no mention of the expertise of the reciters in Façade, preferring to sit on tired assumptions that Kevin Whately in Henry V can’t shake off Lewis. Well, he has done, and does so brilliantly, as the other discerning reviewers have noticed.

You also make no mention of the brilliant contribution of the instrumentalists of the Orchestra of the Swan and conductor Bruce O’Neil.

If you wish to discuss this further I will be more than happy to hear from you.

Christopher Morley
Chief music critic, Birmingham Post
Midlands correspondent, Opera magazine and Musical Opinion.


I have been a reviewer for nearly 60 years including a 20-year stint as music critic of Aberdeen’s morning paper the ‘Press & Journal’.  I am still happy to listen to advice but reserve the right not to accept it.

Should/can reviews be ‘objective’? Discuss…

BMS reviews have notional limit of 400 words.  Thus, there is no obligation to name and discuss all the performers (or all of the tracks on a CD).  Writers are at liberty to select those issues which interest them, and which they rate as important for their readers. 

I mentioned my performance of Christopher Palmer’s Henry V Scenario to indicate that I had an in-depth knowledge of the score and its impact in performance.  It is unfortunate that Mr Morley dismisses as ‘amateur’ what I purposely described as’ local’.  He will perhaps be unaware that Aberdeen has a strong reputation for the quality of its music-making.  Most of the performers in this instance were professionals, and if they were not, they would have been grade 8 or more.  I would not have undertaken the project had that not been the case.

I felt it important to indicate that the Somm Henry V is very different from what people may know of the Palmer ‘Scenario’.  Yes, the medieval colours are a feature, but my opinion is that this version misrepresents both Walton’s intention, and his achievement in creating one of the finest film scores of last century.

Ok, it is another opinion, but I do find Mr Whately’s accent inappropriate, and as I am sure I won’t be alone in this, I felt I should mention it.  An actorly RP is what I would look for (yet another opinion).