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Samuel BARBER (1910 - 1981)
Adagio for Strings (1936)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910)
Fantasia on Greensleeves (1929)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 - 1924)

Pavane (1887)
Johann PACHELBEL (1653 – 1706)

Kanon (c.1699)
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)

Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 (1880)
Percy GRAINGER (1882 – 1961)

Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy)

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin.
Recorded in Symphony Hall, St. Louis, Missouri March 27 – 28 1981, and in Powell Symphony Hall, October 12 1982. DDD
TELARC SACD-60641 [75.23]

Here is a bargain and a half! This is another Telarc disc, re-issuing two previously available CDs. The new disc is released in SACD format. The music is recorded in spectacular sound and superbly performed.

Telarc is well known for audio excellence, and rarely, if ever, have I seen a negative review of one of their products in this respect. And so it is here with a recording that cannot be faulted. As far as performances go, do not be put off by the name Leonard Slatkin. These recordings were made well before Slatkin’s disastrous tenure with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, now thankfully at an end. He made a number of superlative recordings with the St. Louis band on RCA, Telarc and Vanguard, but of these three, the recording quality was always best with Telarc.

The Vaughan Williams items, particularly the Tallis Fantasia, sound just right, reinforcing the conductor’s high reputation in English music. Listening to this disc, one would not immediately pick it as being by American performers, there being little gloss to the playing with a superior acoustic.

The Samuel Barber makes its customary impact, although not quite replacing Bernstein’s performance on DG.

The other small items on the disc, Fauré, Pachelbel, and Grainger, are exceedingly good, with the orchestra sounding particularly well, eclipsing or at least equalling most competitive versions.

The main work on the disc is the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, written at a particularly happy time of in the composer’s life. It is contemporary with the 1812 Overture, and whereas the overture was written unenthusiastically, the Serenade was entirely self generated. It is in four movements, the first being in formal sonata form, reinforcing Tchaikovsky’s love of Germanic constructions in music. There follows a beautifully written Waltz, which has become self sufficient as a favourite encore for many conductors. Slatkin’s phrasing of the slow movement brings out all of the emotion in the piece. The finale is a rushing Allegro con Spirito and it really is that.

I can heartily recommend this disc to all collectors whether or not they wish to take advantage of Telarc’s superb SACD sound.

John Phillips


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