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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Lark Ascending (1921) preceded by poem extract read by Niamh Cusack [14:54]
Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934) [4:06]
Job - A Masque for Dancing (1930) [47:20]
David Juritz (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth (Job)
Consort of London/Robert Haydon Clark
rec. 1990/1, St Johns Smith Square, London; All Saints Tooting (Job)
ALTO ALC1384 [66:38]

These three works written by Vaughan Williams between the ages of 49 and 62 are heard in recordings that constantly slip on and off the radar screen. It is surprising that MWI has not reviewed them. They were originally issued by the long defunct Collins Classics in 1990 and 1991 (11242 and 11402).

Boult and Handley are 'constants' in Job (Boult/EMI: June 2013; Boult/Beulah: Sept 2016; Handley/CFP/EMI Eminence: July 2002) but there are others: Bostock/ClassicO/Membran: February 2000July 2011; Davis/Warner: February 2005 and Davis/Chandos: March 2017April 2017. There are also, unreviewed by MWI as far as I can see, readings from: EN Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones, Naxos (8.553955); BBCNSO/Handley (BBC Radio Classics 1656 91662) and there's even a 2011 ICA Classics DVD of Boult with the LPO in 1972 RVW centenary year.

It's a unique measure to have the George Meredith poem that served as RVW's inspiration, read on CD as a prelude to a performance of The Lark Ascending. Niamh Cusack is the reader:-

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing 'til his heaven fills,
'Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup,
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes
'Til lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Unique it may be, but there are two things to be noted. It's a pity that the poetry reading, brief as it is, is sandwiched into the same track as the music. You cannot play The Lark unless you also hear the poem. Secondly, while this is a suave and silvery reading of the piece with an honest recording, it lacks feeling - especially the first half. That said, I rather warmed to the fast tempo and vigorous dancing moments that distinguish the excellent close. For me much the same criticism applies to the classic EMI recording by Jean Pougnet. I should add that the soloist David Juritz was a pupil of Hugh Bean (who made a classic recording of The Lark for Warner/EMI). Looked at in isolation I prefer Bean, Kennedy (coupled on EMI with the Elgar concerto) and Waley-Cohen in The Lark (review review). The short Fantasia on Greensleeves, which the insert simply lists as Greensleeves, goes very well indeed. It is nicely accented and adds some unusual but naturally couched emphases.

This sensibly tracked (9) Job is directed by a conductor I have always been partial to. There are some superb British works under Wordsworth including Jacob, Benjamin, Lambert, Foulds and Bliss. The present Job is vindication for Collins' choice for the Philharmonia's Job. The recording is classically strong and the credits remind us that a familiar name, Trygg Tryggvason was at the audio desk … and did superbly. There is no track in this 28-year-old Job that leaves us in any doubt as to his choices. There is a rapid pulse and aural bloom to Satan's Dance of Triumph while Glen Martin's saxophone in the Dance of Job's Comforters keeps up an imploring accent. The quiet ecstasy of Elihu's Dance and the earlier Minuet of the Sons of Jacob harks back to The Lark and to Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. The spectacular Galliard of the Sons of the Morning is rendered with both brilliance and generously squat brass tone. The Epilogue is bathed in tenderness. All in all, this is a very fine Job with many rewarding pages and details that will reach out to gratify, even if the listener is very familiar with other versions.

The notes are by Alto stalwart Jeffrey Davis. He does a good job in covering much- ploughed territory in what is among the most readable of contents and styles.

Rob Barnett
 

 



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