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The English Connection
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

The Lark Ascending (sketched 1914; rev. f.p. 1920) *
Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis † (1910)
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Serenade for String Orchestra in E minor (1892)
Michael TIPPETT (b. 1934)

Fantasia Concertante on a Theme by Corelli ◙(1953)
* Iona Brown (violin)
† Malcolm Latchem (violin), Stephen Shingles (viola) and Denis Vigay (cello)
◙ Kenneth Sillito (violin) and Denis Vigay (cello)
Academy of St Martins in the Fields/Neville Marriner
Reissue - recorded in Abbey Road Studios in 1983
ASV CD DCA 518 [61:48]

These performances were originally recorded in 1983. The disc is reissued now in memory of Iona Brown who died earlier this year. She was to go on to record Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, with the same orchestra and conductor for Decca in 1991. The work is a poetical evocation of verses by George Meredith, "He rises and begins to round, He drops the silver chain of sound…" This earlier performance shows Iona Brown as a soloist inspired by this popular work, realising all its lyricism, evoking all its pastoral beauty.

There are many recordings of the early, sentimental Elgar Serenade for Strings, a number recorded by Sir Neville and the Academy and this warm, affectionate performance stands well with the competition but if I had to live with just one recording then it would have to be Barbirolli’s 1962 EMI recording with the Sinfonia of London (EMI 567240 2). That celebrated EMI recording also features another inspired performance - that of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Its performance on this ASV disc is impressive enough with a nice spacious acoustic, its elegant classical contrapuntal shape finely and cleanly articulated.

Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli has material that extends the sound-world of the Tallis Fantasia and of Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro. There is about this piece that quintessential Englishness of wide country vistas and cathedral cloisters. However the work is based on the Italian Concerto Grosso principle. There are decorative and lyrical elements intertwined with complex contrapuntal writing. This performance is warm and supple yet firmly classical, each line, however complicated and sinuous, is clearly drawn.

Sterling performances of some well-loved English works for strings.

Ian Lace

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