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CD: AmazonUK

Arcadia Lost
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Lark Ascending
(1920) [15:00]
Flos Campi (1924-25) [20:26]
On Wenlock Edge (1908-9) [20:38]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Sinfonia da Requiem
(1939) [18:11]
Michael Dauth (violin); Roger Benedict (viola); Steve Davislim (tenor)
Cantillation/Michael Black; Hamer Quartet
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth
rec. 1-3 Oct 2009 (Sydney Opera House), 28 Feb 2010 (Iwaki Auditorium)
MELBA MR301131 [74:17]

Experience Classicsonline

The Australian label Melba ensure, through their musical and design choices, that their discs could never be condemned as faceless. The author of the essay (English – French – German) is none other than Michael Kennedy so we know that corners have not been cut. The Housman poems are easily legible. The edge-faded and faux-foxed photos of a flooded English countryside on the cover show a time-worn watery Arcadia glimpsed across the decades. Great choices from the Melba design team.

Nothing here is rare but the combination of works is unique. There’s Britten’s grim and grittily impressive Sinfonia, two concertante works from RVW and a classic Housman work for piano quintet and tenor – the house tenor Steve Davislim. The orchestral items are conducted by Mark Wigglesworth whose Mahler and Shostakovich have been praised in these pages. The Lark is an excellent version: throaty, atmospheric, glitz-free and with telling attention to dynamics. Michael Dauth’s violin is caringly touching. There’s at least one cough. A very fine concert version. Flos Campi has Roger Benedict’s stirringly recorded viola: auburn, amber and russet in tone. The music is given a passionately taut surge rather than a flaccid sigh. Cantillation are heard in sound that is prominent and power-dressed. The Britten Sinfonia da Requiem sits uncomfortably in this pastoral transcendental company. This is Britten’s only approach to a purely orchestral and epic toned symphony. Wigglesworth is excellent but the sound here is not as spectacular as that accorded to Previn by EMI. It still carried a very symphonic feel – the same stamp as the indomitably irresistible trudge one also hears in Alwyn’s Fifth Symphony.

These three works are quirkily joined by RVW’s On Wenlock Edge (not the orchestral version). In this the exemplary Steve Davislim is very Partridge like - wonderful. One pedantic lapse though: I am sure I heard him singing “Woods in riots” rather than “Woods in riot”. The last verse of the first song has that authentic sinister and twig-rattling shiver rather like the witchery music in Warlock’s The Curlew. The last song, Clun has the feel of a sunset rounded with a sleep – peace achieved.

A disc that proclaims character in every aspect.

Rob Barnett





























































































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