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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
CD 1 [74:54]
The Wasps - Overture (1909) [8:26]
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1938) [16:35]
Oboe Concerto in A minor (1934) [18:14]
Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1907) [31:10]
CD 2 [76:01]
Symphony No. 5 in D (1943) [39:28]
Symphony No. 6 in E minor (1943) [36:27]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Constantin Silvestri (Wasps; Tallis)
Gerald Jarvis (violin); Robert Growcott (violin); Cedric Morgan (viola); Alan Turner (cello) (Tallis); John Williams (oboe); Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Berglund (Oboe; 6); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Alexander Gibson (5). Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Berglund (4).
rec. Winchester Cathedral, 5 (Tallis), 6 (Wasps) September 1967; No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, 30 December 1974 (Oboe); No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, 29-30 October 1979 (4); No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, 25-26 May 1982 (5); Kingsway Hall, London, 17-18 June 1974 (6). ADD/DDD
EMI CLASSICS BRITISH COMPOSERS 2161462 [74:54 + 76:01] 


Experience Classicsonline

Wondered what was missing from Sargent's recently reissued Wasps overture? Listen to Silvestri and you will find out. There's a leaping dynamism about this playing and my is it fast! This is Silvestri injecting the Golovanov factor into Vaughan Williams. Even so he finds time for delicacy and the broad archetypical pastoral melody at 3:06 is as expansive as you could ask and, yes, as passionate. This is completely in keeping with his restlessly exuberant Elgar In the South - another treasure of the gramophone. Silvestri's Tallis Fantasia is spiritual, centre-anchored and sensational just like the sound-image. Be assured it does not feel rushed. It does sometimes feel romanticised. It sings and prays with such ardent conviction.

The Oboe Concerto is dedicated to Leon Goossens. It is a plaintively singing work and John Williams’ oboe is a modest and gracious presence, recorded to match. The Concerto's first two movements serenade the countryside. A chilly but not confounding wind blows through the finale like a Moeran scherzo. There is a defiant delight and a sweeping ecstasy about this writing as at 1.20 in III. The Bax-dedicated Fourth Symphony was recorded first by the composer with the BBC Symphony Orchestra who also premiered it with the composer (Dutton and Naxos now). Berglund is a fine advocate and this symphony suits his temperament well. It is a dark interpretation and one which takes the work close in the second movement to Sibelius's own Fourth, a work which Berglund would have been even more familiar with. Berglund is in best fettle with the scherzo and finale; the latter accelerant-laced and tramping forward at a faster than usual pace. Perhaps this could have done with a lick of the Silvestri paint for added vivid colouring but it impresses in its own dour right.

CD1 coincides with EMI CDM 5665392 which has been available as a single CD since 1997. The second CD in this set includes recordings new to the catalogue. The RPO prove themselves a virtuoso orchestra as they did for Temirkanov when they recorded the Tchaikovsky symphonies with him for BMG-RCA. 

The RPO are centre-stage for a rarity - Gibson's reading of the Fifth Symphony here taken at a contemplative tack spanning nearly 40 minutes. This is as against Barbirolli's 38 minutes. Bound up in a complicated knot of links with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress this is a work of seraphically peaceful benediction. That it should emerge in wartime perhaps emphasises the need from which the music arose - an emollient, a honeyed healing for pain and loss. The natural and detailed sound-image for Gibson's Fifth is entirely fitting and the chirping and sappy woodwind fit the bill to perfection. Gibson insists on ‘world enough and time’ and the steady pacing only seems to falter and lumber in the finale although it does work extremely well from 1:32 onwards. 

Doubts there are none in connection with the whirlwind and desolation that Berglund and the BSO make of the Sixth Symphony. This recording has never previously made it to CD which is a great surprise given its excellence. It is searing, stirring and terrifying. The saxophone puts in a leering and noticeable appearance. The wind lines are superbly articulated by Berglund’s players. One is very conscious of his point-making but the results are gratifying. The BSO strings sing out in clean-limbed eloquence, for instance at 4:03 in the first movement. 

The Fifth Symphony is from 1943. The Sixth was written between 1944 and 1947 being premiered in 1948 when the composer was 76. There were still three more symphonies to come. Berglund was good at the Fourth Symphony and is equally well attuned to the almost Shostakovich-like Sixth. Its desolation is not a million miles from the searing adagios of the Russian composer's wartime symphonies.

For all that we are spoilt with so many complete RVW symphony cycles each of the versions here have something to tell us and to enthral.

Rob Barnett



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