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Silverline Classics

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958)
Symphony #6 in e (1947) [37.43]
Recorded University of Utah Music Hall, Salt Lake City, UT, USA 1966
Five Variants on ‘Dives and Lazarus(1939) [12.39]
Recorded in Salt Lake City, UT, USA, 1967
Dona Nobis Pacem (1936) [34.39]
Blanche Christiansen, soprano; William Metcalf; baritone; University of Utah Choir
Recorded in the Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, 1966
Flos Campi Suite for Viola, Small Orchestra & Wordless Choir (1925) [19.03]
Sally Peck Lentz, viola; University of Utah Chamber Choir
Recorded in Salt Lake City, UT, USA, 1967
Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel
Notes in English, full engineering credits and track list. ADD
On disk extras: Composer biography, photos and documents of artists, memorial tribute speech by Ardean Watts; "remembering the Utah Symphony Orchestra;"
Technical documentary; Speaker set-up utility.
DVD-Audio playable on DVD players.

SILVERLINE CLASSICS 288239-9 [104.00]

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Comparison Recordings of works by Vaughan Williams:

Symphony #6, Leonard Slatkin, Philh. Orch. RCA Red Seal CD 09026 60556-2
Symphony #6, Stokowski, NYPO [AAD mono] Sony SMK 58933
Flos Campi, Lazarus, etc. Abravanel, USO [ADD] Vanguard CD OVC 4053
Sym. #6, Dona Nobis Pacem; Abravanel, USO [ADD] Vanguard CD SVC 7
Dona Nobis Pacem; Shaw, Atlanta SO Telarc [Surround Sound] CD-80479

Both Boise, Idaho, where I live, and Salt Lake City, Utah, are considered conservative Mormon towns, but conservatism is a relative thing. On Saturdays the rowdies from Salt Lake City have to drive the 400+ miles up to Boise to raise hell because they can’t do that at home. On a Friday night the headlights of the line of automobiles on the highway west out of Salt Lake City to the Nevada border, where gambling and drinking and fooling around are unrestricted, can be seen from the moon. But times are changing in Salt Lake City, which now has air pollution, water shortages, urban sprawl and a decaying downtown infrastructure, and is no longer the most beautiful City in the US between St. Louis and San Francisco.

Musically the city has been on the international map for nearly 40 years. In 1947, Maurice de Abravanel moved there and lived there until he died in 1979, immersing himself in the community and determined to build a great Symphony Orchestra in the desert. He succeeded beyond anyone’s most optimistic predictions. He insisted on taking the orchestra on tour throughout the state, sometimes to small towns where the audience were fewer in number than the players, and if there was no money for salaries, everybody played for free.

This version of Flos Campi was always one of Abravanel’s most beautiful recordings; to have it in good DVD-Audio sound would be a true delight. Unfortunately, this recording, which was originally a fine two channel master, has been artificially "enhanced" and brightened to produce fake surround sound. Even the two channel version on this disk has the fake surround signal embedded in it to be used by matrix surround sound decoders. As a result this rich warm sound is now stringy, echo-y, verging on strident. The same is true of the Symphony and the Dona Nobis Pacem. This DVD cannot be recommended. You are much better off listening to the two channel CD versions of these recordings. Residents of Salt Lake City and friends of Maurice de Abravanel who want to see and hear the tribute material extras on this disk will find that identical material on several other of the Silverline releases most of which can be strongly recommended, especially the Swan Lake Ballet.

The great Sixth Symphony of Vaughan Williams, after the Fourth perhaps the second most popular of his works in North America, is more sympathetically played and receives better recording in several other issues. The brilliantly recorded Previn and Slatkin versions are excellent, as well as the venerable classic versions by Stokowski and Boult, with their now dated sonics.

Robert Shaw’s recording of the Dona Nobis Pacem is one of his finest performances and is presented on the Telarc label in brilliant Surround Sound, and sounds better in every way than this Silverline disk. Shaw was throughout his life a Protestant minister with a strong sense of music as evangelism and although I find him a bit too dignified in some of the great Catholic musical classics, here his natural enthusiasm finds the perfect voice. Richard Hickox’s version with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on EMI CD 54788 is also very well reviewed, although I’ve not had the pleasure of hearing it.

Paul Shoemaker

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