Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
A Sea Symphony (1909) [66:19]
Geraldine McGreevy (soprano); Tommi Hakala (baritone)
MDR Symphony Orchestra and Radio Choir/Howard Arman
rec. live, 4 February 2007, Gewandhaus, Leipzig, Germany
MDR KONZERTE VKJK 0731 [66:19]

Experience Classicsonline


Since most of the performers on this disc were new to me, it makes sense to begin with some information about them. MDR stands for Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, or Central German Broadcasting. The amalgamation in 1991 of two radio orchestras based in Leipzig gave birth to the MDR Symphony Orchestra, whose Chief Conductor is Jun Märkl, soon to be succeeded by Kristjan Järvi. The conductor on this disc is actually the Chorus Master of the associated Radio Choir, a post he has held since 1998. He was born in London, but most of his career seems to have been spent in Germany. Geraldine McGreevy is an English soprano who trained at the Royal Academy of Music. Collectors who have Hugh Wood’s magnificent (though challenging) Scenes from Comus (NMC) on their shelves will already be familiar with her voice. Finally, Finnish baritone Tommi Hakala studied both in Finland and in Germany, and in 2003 was the winner of the BBC’s Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
This is a live recording from the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The audience is very well behaved and for most of the performance the listener probably wouldn’t know they were there. The final bars of the work fade into nothingness, a typical Vaughan Williams feature. Quite a few seconds of silence follow the final chord, so quite why the producers decided to include applause, and over half a minute of it at that, is anybody’s guess. Individual views differ as to whether or not to include applause in a live recording, and going back to the venue the next day to record the final bars in order to circumvent applause does seem a strange idea. But I do think it a pity that the applause was retained in this case. It is not, however, a reason for collectors, established Vaughan Williams admirers and newcomers alike, to pass over this performance, which is absolutely outstanding.
You suspect a safe pair of hands from the opening bars, which are splendidly sonorous and majestic, but which above all show a real feeling for the ebb and flow – please forgive the maritime imagery – of Vaughan Williams’ musical pulse. The suspicion is confirmed when the mood changes for the words “Today a rude brief recitative”, whose music has just the right swaggering, even swashbuckling quality. In short, this first movement is hugely impressive, with magnificent sweep, as if conceived and performed in a single breath. The second movement communicates great calm, though Sir Adrian Boult, incomparable here, achieves even more. The scherzo is brilliantly precise and wildly exciting, but as so often in this work, it is the long opening passage of the finale that demonstrates most clearly the quality of the choral singing. The choir is magnificent throughout, in fact, and it is clear that the work has been scrupulously prepared, presumably by the conductor of this performance. Singling out the near-ecstatic singing of the passage “The true son of God shall come singing his songs”, again from the finale, shouldn’t detract from the remarkable achievement of the rest. Orchestras don’t always take kindly to being conducted by the choral director, but there are no signs of any problems here, the ensemble playing with remarkable skill, commitment and conviction. Geraldine McGreevy is very fine, her stratospheric notes admirably secure, and the voice steely and clear in her very first solo. Tommi Hakala sings with superb spirit and insight, and that is enough for this listener to forgive him his rather pronounced vibrato. Others might feel differently; they may be more disturbed that I, too, by his sometimes rather wayward English vowels. The soloists’ long duet in the fourth movement is very affecting, and their way with “Bathe me O God in thee”, just before the famous passage “O thou transcendent”, is as beautiful as I can remember hearing it.
The Sea Symphony is a difficult work to hold together, and Arman is very successful indeed. His pacing of the work is unerring, and balancing these huge forces has been most skilfully done. Only in the final minutes do I part company with him. Firstly, the silence the coda (“O my brave soul! O farther sail!”) is much longer than the “piccolo pausa” indicated by the composer. More important, it seems too long, especially since the basic tempo for this final section is very slow indeed, arguably too slow, though that really is a subjective judgment. At no other point do I feel the conductor’s vision of the work to be anything other than totally right and convincing.
The recording, presumably intended for broadcast, is of demonstration quality. Details emerge, especially in the orchestral writing, that I have never heard before. If you find the same, be assured, they are all there in the score. The English/German booklet is excellent, featuring, amongst other things, a short and thoughtful essay on the work signed by the conductor.
There are many very fine performances of this work on disc, and Vaughan Williams enthusiasts will have their own favoured version. I hope they will be ready to add this one to their collection, however, as this particular Vaughan Williams enthusiast has been bowled over by its quality. It will certainly be one of the choices when, in the future, I feel the need to hear the Sea Symphony.
William Hedley


































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.