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William WALTON (1902-1983)
Belshazzar's Feast
(1931) [35:57]
J. S. BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No. 4: Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV4 [22:12]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Mass in G minor (1921) [22:02]
John Cameron (baritone); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Roger Wagner (Walton); Doralene McNelly (soprano); Alice Ann Yates (alto); Michael Carolan (tenor); Charles Scharbach (bass); Paul Salamunivich (cantor); Concert Arts Orchestra (Bach)/Roger Wagner; The Roger Wagner Chorale/Roger Wagner
rec. Walton: Abbey Road Studio 1, London, 19-22 September 1960. Transfer from Angel S-36015. First issued in 1961 (USA only) on Capitol SP 8577; RVW, Bach: Hollywood in 1960. Transfer from Angel S-36014. First issued in January 1961 (USA only) on Capitol SP 8535
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO074 [79:52]

These are all stereo recordings sourced from the collection of Edward Johnson. Pristine are pretty sure that these recordings, taken down from American LPs, have not been reissued before. They have been treated, so we are assured, to a great deal of technical tender love and care. The results sound good - probably as good as they have ever sounded. 

This is a really good Belshazzar's Feast and it took me quite by surprise. This 50+ year old recording opens the door on a reputation that has slipped silently into the mist. This Wagner deserves better. I wonder what else he recorded. All Waltonians should get this and compare it with the other greats: Previn's for EMI and my other outsider - also American - Ormandy on Sony. The oak-sturdy ‘bassy’ baritone is John Cameron: his projection is all lofty oratory, condemnation and exultation. The choir has been drilled to precision and combines the power of a massive engine with the precision of a scalpel. If Wagner has injected the faintest trace element of Hollywood glow it certainly suits the music. The instrumental detail is magnificently well rendered in stereo. One small detail: this recording sports the work's best anvil sound ever. It rings true and loud. 

While the Bach is old-fashioned big-band stuff you might enjoy its caramelised and super-smooth remission from HIP rigour. Certainly it swims against the torrent of the times. True-blue adherents of authenticity might like to try it when they need something to rail against. The RVW Mass is right at the opposite pole to the EMI Classics one of yore. This is more broodingly passionate Rachmaninov Vespers than Byrd. I liked it, having found myself only fleetingly engaged by the Willcocks EMI version. Whether this is authentic RVW I doubt. It may even enrage some but in it we hear the composer as urgent pilgrim. It’s more a matter of ardour than ascetic devotion and as such is more in touch with the RVW presented in the television documentary: The Passions of Vaughan Williams.
 
Some intriguing material here and a totally enjoyable Belshazzar that should shake some dust out of the rafters.  

Rob Barnett


Vaughan Williams review index: Mass

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