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
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
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
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.