has contributed some of the most distinguished
performances of the Vaughan Williams
symphonies ever to have been recorded.
This version is his second, post-dating
his earlier recording with the London
Symphony Orchestra, a performance that
continues to maintain a significant
position in the catalogue and maintains
the praise and affection of all those
who know it.
This later performance
remains one to be reckoned with, however.
The sound is natural and pleasing, with
a wide dynamic range that acknowledges
the sensitive quiet playing of the orchestra
and the abundant subtleties of Vaughan
Williamsís visionary score. To judge
this there is no need to listen further
than the opening phase of the first
movement, one of the most beautifully
contrived, atmospheric passages in the
whole symphonic literature.
Beyond making the observation
that Previnís first version remains
one of the finest and most radiant of
all recorded interpretations of this
symphony, there is no need to play off
this Royal Philharmonic performance
against its illustrious LSO predecessor.
For it remains valid in its own right,
sensitive to the nuances of the score
and alert to the dramatic possibilities
The full-toned climax
of the first movement is a glorious
moment, so too the impassioned climax
of the slow movement, building inexorably
out of the music from the House Beautiful
scene in the (as yet unperformed)
opera The Pilgrimís Progress.
The scherzo is well pointed, full of
darting rhythms and with careful attention
to the musicís dynamic range.
As so often in symphonic
music, it is the finale that justifies
the particular drama, its development
and characteristics. Here the realisation
that the return of the opening theme
of the work is the crucial moment is
as natural a result as one can imagine;
clear testament to Previnís deep understanding
of this glorious and visionary score.
The performance of
the Tallis Fantasia is splendid
too, although here too it is possible
to argue that other performances, notably
Barbirolliís (EMI) are more ardent still.
But the RPO string players create a
most pleasing sound: restrained and
noble, rich and full, as required.