There is bound to be almost as much celebrity attracted
by this set as by the gradually unfurling Hickox-RVW-Chandos series.
Quite justifiable too. After all the outpouring of so many new Vaughan
Williams works in one set is hardly a commonplace event.
For those of you of a certain age or whose interest
in Vaughan Williams was piqued in the early 1970s or late 1960s the
catalogue vista for this composer has been utterly transformed and so
that process continues. There is still plenty of territory to be covered
and I look forward to the first recording of the orchestral version
of the Folk Songs of the Four Seasons, of the complete orchestral
music for film (Chandos are making major inroads here), even of a series
devoted to the complete music for radio productions of which the music
for the BBC Home Service adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge
should be well worth catching. All in due time.
Your expectations in the case of these chamber works
need to be tempered, tuned or adjusted to reflect the fact that these
chamber pieces are early works predating Towards the Unknown Region
and A Sea Symphony each of which carries a whiff of Stanford
and a larger helping of Parry.
My fearful expectations of a Brahmsian brew were misplaced
in the case of the Piano Quintet. In fact the music is cast in
a mould rather similar to Howells' piano quartet of some ten years later,
exultant and surging with romantic power. There is a Parryesque quality
here which I can best compare with that composer’s First Symphony (William
Boughton's long-vanished Nimbus recording represents the work best).
The quintet ends in confident understatement rather than romantic exclamation.
The earliest work is the String Quartet of
1898. Michael Kennedy's note suggests similarities with Dvořák
and I would not disagree although I would add that there is a
Mozartian steadiness and dignity about the writing too. This piece offers
a fascinating insight but is by no means de rigueur for RVW partisans.
The Brahmsian expectations are soundly delivered in the case of the
D Major Quintet; something about the forthright French horn of
Richard Watkins, Ian Brown's sturdy piano role and Richard Hosford's
clarinet playing. This is a work that would pair rather well with the
Brahmsian delights of John Ireland's Sextet. The wittily well-pointed
Intermezzo is succeeded by the sentiment-heavy andantino and the flighty
and flirtatious bustle of the finale. The work ends with a regal flourish.
The 1904 Scherzo for string quintet seethes
with brusque energy counter-pointed by an appealingly Brahmsian second
subject - lilting and aristocratic. There are some fascinating effects
to be heard as in the juicy harmonics of the dream section at 2.40 et
The bipartite Nocturne and Scherzo is much more
folk-inflected with a moving Nocturne that carries hints of the
Scandinavian nights. The buzzing Mendelssohnian tension of the Scherzo
is brilliantly played and most vividly captured by the Hyperion team.
The Suite of simple miniatures is succulently
voiced by Philippa Davies. Much of it is ‘clothed’ in rum-ti-tum - all
smocks and haystacks - but the Improvisation first movement has
more depth. Similar rural rides can be found in the Hymn Tune
preludes but there is some affecting writing in the Aberystwyth
variations (finale, tr. 12 CD2)
Not surprisingly, given the 1914 provenance, the Romance
and Pastorale (and for that matter the Tertis-intended Romance
for viola) is warm and subtle; flowing with the flavours and atmosphere
of summer streams and warm byres - only a shade away from The Lark
These are world premiere recordings of the Piano Quintet,
Nocturne and Scherzo, String Quartet in C minor, Wind and Piano Quintet
and Scherzo. While the Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes have been
recorded before this is the premiere recording of the string quartet
As executants the Nash take no prisoners - holding
nothing back. There is no suspicion of a museum case production. The
performers meet the music full on and play as if the young composer
of the first and second decades of the last century were in the room
with them. This is one of Hyperion's most commanding productions. Extremely
impressive and easily recommendable to the composer’s many enthusiasts