The interloper here – though still welcome - is the Greensleeves
Fantasia. Clearly, it has been inserted as a filler - good
for you, Telarc! Slatkin and the Saint Louis band deliver an effective
version which does not linger unduly. It is a more objective approach
than we would have had from Previn or indeed from Barbirolli;
very effective, too.
The other recordings are the RVW legacy of Previn's association
with Telarc and the RPO between 1986 and 1988. His complete RCA/LSO
set of the symphonies remains close to first choice despite its
analogue recording dates between 1967 and 1972.
The main featured works on the present set are predominantly
contemplative. They are rendered in rich Telarc sound which blesses
the RPO's strings rather than stropping their cutting blade. You
all too rarely hear the strings given such a beneficent accent.
They glow rather than scythe through the scores. I am fairly sure
I recall some first release criticism of these early recordings
but I have only praise for this set and for the yielding spirituality
Previn brings out. The inherent artistic strengths are accentuated
by the two-for-one price and the convenient single width case.
If you have been curious about these versions then do not hold
back. You might be put off by the clunky ‘Everybody's Vaughan
Williams' title and the lack of liner-notes but you need to see
past these superficial things. This is a great bargain. Previn
recaptures all the spirituality and the rhythmic life of his earliest
The recordings are the work of James Mallinson, the ex-Decca
house engineer. He capitalises magnificently on the Fairfield
Hall and Walthamstow Town Hall acoustics. The quality of this
recording and of Previn's breathtaking engagement can be heard
in the quasi-niente string sound - just this side of silence
at the start of the Fifth’s Romanza. Just as impressive
is the even more familiar Tallis Fantasia where Previn
opts to take the work a little faster than usual.
The recording really is stunning and dares much especially in
the extremes of dynamic. These range upwards from a barely heard
whisper which at one stage had me checking whether I had turned
down the volume by accident. There is little difference between
the two concert hall acoustics except perhaps for a stronger bass
presence in the Fairfield Hall items. This can add just a slight
hint of boom - perhaps depending on your listening end equipment.