TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893) Serenade
for Strings. Op. 48. 28.05
Antonin DVORAK (1841 - 1904)
Serenade for Strings in E Major. Op. 22. 25.28
Edward ELGAR (1857 - 1934)
Introduction & Allego for strings. Op. 47. 12.53
Serenade for string orchestra. Op.20. 11.43
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 - 1958)
The Lark Ascending. 15.05 Fantasia on
'Greensleeves'. 4.11 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.
Josef SUK (1874 - 1935) Serenade
for String Orchestra. Op. 8. 26.20
London Chamber Orchestra
Recorded All Saints Church,
Petersham. June 1988 & Dec 1989. Virgin Classics. 7243 5 61763 2 4
CD1 78.49 CD2 61.14
Recent items which have come my way for reviewing have included several Virgin
double CD's ("twofers"). These are retailing at less than £9.00 for
the two discs and seem to me to be good value. The latest to hand is String
Serenades, with the London Chamber Orchestra playing works which are
well known and deservedly so. The recordings are not new - they date from
1988 and were released in 1989. My collection still includes one of the discs
released at the time (the English element of the works on this latest release).
I rated the disc highly then, and listening afresh in the new package reminds
me how much I enjoyed it.
The new discs have less generous notes provided than when issued earlier.
Like others in the series the items played are fully detailed with details
of the works, playing times, names of the performers and recording dates.
This is all useful and essential, but basic information on the works played
is minimal with just one page (in English that is - German and French
translations are included) to cover all the items on the two discs. As one
assumes the packages in the series are aimed primarily at the general buyer
rather than the out and out collector, presumably he/she would welcome more
Everything was recorded at the same venue, All Saints Church, Petersham,
and the engineers did a fine job, although this is not a recording for those
who like the "centre aisle seat, half way up the hall" approach. They may
find the closeness and clarity of individual instruments too much, even though
the Church's spacious acoustic has been captured well in ensemble passages
and the overall balance is good. If I have a quibble it is with the over
romantic approach, taking liberties with tempi, the affectionate over lingering
throughout, (for instance, the Waltz passage in the Tchaikovsky would have
the dancers among us held up on our toes longer than is good for our dignity).
Curiously though, the Waltz in Dvorak's Serenade was played without
affectation to the music's gain.
The Serenades from the two (related) Czech composers were given glowing
performances. Tempi were free throughout and if one remembers that the L.C.O.
is directed from the violin rather than conducted then the control shown
becomes even more admirable. Lightness and shading, subtle dynamics, all
were present. Probably the least known item of the selection is the early
piece by Josef Suk - a charming four movement work featuring some fine writing
for the cello in particular throughout.
The English works spread over the two discs will be familiar to most of us.
In choosing them the orchestra clearly was prepared to challenge the strong
competition in the field, notably the incomparable Barbirolli versions. The
magical refinement that he brought to music he loved may never be matched
but the discs under discussion can stand comparison with all but the very
best. The Introduction and Allegro was rather special. The close recording
was here an undoubted gain with the string quartet in Elgar's little masterpiece
playing a fuller part then one sometimes hears. Played with passion and bite,
the drive and vigour were reminiscent of a live performance. The following
E Minor Serenade was given a pleasantly relaxed reading. Christopher
Warren-Green was an outstanding soloist in a radiant The Lark Ascending,
followed by a rather bland Greensleeves. For the Tallis Fantasia
the normal seventeen players were augmented with a second smaller body
with magical results. The acoustic, the intensity and quality of the playing,
the soaring solo violin (Warren-Green again), and the unity of the group
made this a top class reading.
Slight reservations, but these are minor compared to the pleasure the disc