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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

Orchestral Works and British Folk Song Arrangements
CD 1

The Wasps: Overture [9:06]
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis [14:15]
In the Fen Country - Symphonic Impression [14:15]
Variations for Orchestra
(arr. Gordon Jacob from 'Variations for Brass Band') [12:06]
Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor [11:09]
Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus' [11:07]
Romance for strings, piano and harmonica
CD 2
The Lark Ascending [10:17]
Fantasia on Greensleeves [4:23]
Concerto Grosso [19:33]

English Folk Song Suite (transc. Gordon Jacob) [15:27]
British Folk Song Arrangements
Sumer is i-cumen in (
arr. Chris Hazell) [3:54]
The Turtle Dove (arr. Chris Hazell) [5:25]
The Keeper (arr. Leslie Pearson) [2:08]
The Oak and the Ash (arr. Leslie Pearson) [3:27]
Early One Morning (arr. Leslie Pearson) [2:44]
John Peel (arr. Chris Hazell) [4:24]
The Jolly Miller (arr. Leslie Pearson) [3:23]
I will give my love an Apple (arr. Leslie Pearson) [3:22]
The British Grenadiers (arr. Leslie Pearson) [3:38]
Tommy Reilly (harmonica) (Romance)
Iona Brown (violin) (The Lark Ascending)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, UK, July 1993 (The Wasps, Tallis Fantasia, In the Fen Country, Variations, Norfolk Rhapsody, Dives and Lazarus); Kingsway Hall, London, UK; October 1972 (The Lark Ascending), February 1980 (Greensleeves, English Folk Song Suite, British
Folk Song Arrangements); St. John’s Smith’s Square, London, UK, June 1976 (Romance), January 1977 (Concerto Grosso)
AUSTRALIAN ELOQUENCE 442 8341 [79:02 + 78:16]

Australian Eloquence continues its enterprising and imaginative series of reissues from the Universal vaults with this well-filled 2CD compilation of popular Vaughan Williams. Along with some very familiar works there’s a few more unusual items thrown in for good measure. 

Much of the first disc was recorded in Abbey Road Studios in 1993 and contains some fine performances. The Wasps Overture opens the collection in ebullient style and Marriner relaxes for the entrance of the big tune. The cool beauty of the Tallis Fantasia comes next as a welcome foil, with the contrasting textures and moods of the music well delineated. In the Fen Country, Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 and Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus are all similarly well performed, if perhaps without some of the character that other conductors have brought to the music. The sense of timelessness in Fen Country and the Norfolk Rhapsody that Boult created in his 1968 New Philharmonia recordings, with the music emerging as from an East Anglian mist, is not equalled here.  Marriner is rather more prosaic but this may in part be due to the clarity of the recordings. 

Less familiar fare are the 1957 brass band Variations in their orchestral garb. The music and Gordon Jacob’s orchestration immediately reminds one of the work’s near contemporary, the Eighth Symphony, although the actual musical material seems wider ranging within its 12 minute framework while at the same time being wholly characteristic of its composer. 

The first CD closes with Tommy Reilly’s genial 1976 recording of the brief harmonica Romance.

With CD 2 we go back in time to 1972 and the late Iona Brown’s justly famous performance of The Lark Ascending. The analogue Kingsway Hall sound here is particularly atmospheric. The disc continues with the Fantasia on Greensleeves, the 1950 Concerto Grosso and the English Folk Song Suite. All are performed with panache and commitment. The closing arrangements by Chris Hazell and Leslie Pearson of folksongs collected by Vaughan Williams are entertaining in a rather soupy kind of a way. Some are more in tune stylistically than others but I wonder what RVW would have made of them. 

Overall, then, a good bargain collection of some of this composer’s best loved works, even though individual performances are in almost all cases bettered elsewhere. The collection also provides a useful overview of Marriner’s work with the ASMF over a twenty year period. 

Ewan McCormick



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