MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

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

VW serenade ALBCD053 JQ
Support us financially by purchasing from

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1982-1958)
rec. 2018-2021, various locations

Already during 2022 Albion Records have released no less than six discs of music by Vaughan Williams. Now, to coincide with the actual date of his 150th anniversary (12 October) they issue what might be termed the VW musical Birthday Party.

It seems that the party was thoughtfully planned and the invitations issued over a period of time because the recordings on this CD were set down at sessions for earlier Albion releases. So, for example, singers Mary Bevan, Nicky Spence and Roderick Williams, along with pianist William Vann, recorded all of VW’s folk song arrangements for solo voice in sessions spread over five days in June 2020. The four resulting CDs have already been issued and I’ve enjoyed them all. In an extra little twist, though, and with an eye to this present album, during the course of the sessions each singer was invited to choose and record a song allotted to one of their colleagues in the main project. So, now we have Mary Bevan in She’s Like the Swallow, which was sung by Roderick Williams on Vol 4 of the series (review). Williams returns the compliment in offering I will give my Love an Apple which Mary Bevan sang on Vol 2 (review). Spence chooses The Winter’s Gone and Past, another song first allocated to Mary Bevan, but this time in Vol 4. Interestingly, none of the three singers opt to record one of the more boisterous songs. As you’d expect, all three sing their chosen songs very well indeed. If you haven’t already investigated the four excellent CDs in that Albion series then these three performances should whet your appetite

In a similar vein, when David Briggs recorded, inter alia, his organ transcription of the Fifth Symphony in Truro Cathedral in August 2021(review), Albion took the opportunity to set down his arrangements of Serenade to Music, the ‘March Past of The Kitchen Utensils’ and an improvisation on For All the Saints. The pieces involving members of the Tredegar Town Band stem from the sessions in Swansea that produced their fantastic disc of ‘Vaughan Williams on Brass’ (review).

I have to be honest and say that I couldn’t quite come to terms with David Briggs’ organ arrangement of the Fifth Symphony. It was sympathetically done – and marvellously played, of course – but, try as I might, I couldn’t banish the familiar orchestral sounds from my head. And an additional problem, for me, was that the climaxes sounded too grand on the full organ. Briggs’ transcription of Serenade to Music is also very sympathetic. We learn from the booklet that he has transcribed the composer’s own arrangement of the piece for orchestra alone. I’m afraid I’ve never warmed to VWs pure-orchestra version. Hearing the work without voices and shorn of Shakespeare’s words seem to me to be very much a case of Hamlet without the Prince. So it proves here. The “orchestral” introduction sounds very convincing but as soon as we reach the point where the voices would normally enter (2:35) it’s impossible to escape the feeling that something is missing. That said, others may enjoy the experience more - it’s certainly a different way to experience the music – and there can be no doubting the musicality of David Briggs, both as arranger and as organist. He also contributes an organ arrangement of the ‘March Past of The Kitchen Utensils’, from The Wasps. Amazingly, he made this transcription in just 24 hours. It’s a ton of fun - here played with tremendous panache - and most imaginatively conceived for the organ. I could see it becoming a popular encore piece for organ recitals.

Briggs is also involved when we hear For All the Saints. The hymn itself appears in the recording that was part of a marvellous disc by William Vann and the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which I reviewed earlier this year. I remarked then that the pace Vann adopts struck me as being decidedly sprightly. To be fair, though, all eight verses would have been a bit of a stretch for the listener at a broader pace, magnificent though the tune is. Incidentally, the last verse is crowned by a wonderful descant by Christopher Robinson. On this CD, though, there’s a very sizeable bonus. Once the hymn has been sung, we hear an improvisation on the tune by David Briggs. It’s effectively a recessional. Albion’s John Francis asked Briggs to record this when they were in Truro Cathedral to set down the Fifth Symphony album and the other pieces on this present disc. What a marvellous idea! Briggs is one of the organ world’s foremost improvisers and this is a short but choice example of his skills. Beginning immediately after the hymn has been sung (at 4:22), he treats us to a majestic short fantasy on the tune which sounds truly imposing on Truro Cathedral’s Willis organ. After a few stimulating modulations, Briggs brings us back to the home key in great style. Bravo!

William Vann and his choir are back in action later in the disc. We also hear from the Tredegar Town Band. Some of their trumpeters contribute five short Flourishes. These are good to hear – and fun to play, I should imagine. The whole band is involved in Paul Hindmarsh’s arrangement of Two Herefordshire Carols. The carols in question were first arranged by VW for the Oxford Book of Carols (1928). Hindmarsh has retained VW’s lovely harmonies in a skilful and sympathetic arrangement which the band plays with great finesse.

Suite for Four Hands on One Pianoforte is a student work, dating from 1893, which VW submitted to Parry, his teacher. The Suite appeared on an earlier disc, which I’ve not heard (review). Or perhaps I should say that most of it appeared on that disc. VW revised the second movement, Minuet, paying heed to suggestions by Parry. On the original release Albion gave us the second version of that movement. However, at the same time Lynn Arnold and Charles Matthews recorded the original version of the Minuet and that’s now included here along with the other three, previously released movements. So, we now get VW’s original Suite. You’ll listen in vain for evidence of VW’s composing voice as we know it. But the suite is well crafted - especially the rhetorical Bachian Prelude - and it’s good that it has been recorded; and it’s also good that it is now available in two versions.

The organ pieces which are played by Charles Matthews are, like most of the contents of this disc, new to the catalogue. They were recorded during some of the sessions for an earlier Albion release which didn’t come my way (review). The recordings were made on the organ in the Temple Speech Room of Rugby School. That venue was chosen for a very specific reason but, as is frankly admitted in the notes, the acoustic is rather dry. The organ can’t resonate very well in this venue and the result is a rather close listening experience. Two of the arrangements which Matthews plays are by Herbert Byard. I can only assume that VW approved because they became good friends. The unassuming Variations on Aberystwyth date from 1940 and the organ arrangement from 1949. Though ideally, I’d like more space around the sound of the organ, the scale of the instrument is well suited to this modest but likeable piece. Given the concerns I’ve expressed earlier in this review about instrumental arrangements of vocal works I was pleasantly surprised by Byard’s 1942 arrangement of ‘The Call’ from Five Mystical Songs. This works well. In between those two pieces we hear a piano piece Pezzo Ostinato in an organ arrangement by Len Rhodes. The original, one of a set of three, dates from 1905 but wasn’t published until 1994. Frankly, I thought this was a dull piece.

William Vann and the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea bring this VW 150th birthday party to a close. Dives and Lazarus is an arrangement of the famous traditional tune for unaccompanied male voices. It’s one of a set of nine carol arrangements which the British Council commissioned from VW in 1941 for British troops stationed in Iceland to sing. The complete set can be heard on a fine Christmas album which I reviewed back in 2018. The inclusion here of Dives and Lazarus is very fitting; the tune meant a lot to VW. The very last track on the disc may surprise some people. God be With You Till We Meet Again is one of the hymns – a ‘Moody and Sankey’ hymn – which VW included in the English Hymnal (1906). It’s not perhaps the best-known of VW’s hymns from that important volume but the clue lies in the name he gave to the tune he wrote for the words: Randolph. Randolph was the name by which VW always called his great friend and cousin Ralph Wedgwood. As the notes put it, this is a “tender hymn of farewell”. The hymn gets a cultivated performance here and it’s a touching way to conclude this 150th anniversary tribute to one of the UK’s foremost composers.

This album is no mere pot-pourri. The programme has been thoughtfully put together. And, furthermore, the album brings together a collection of artists – and recording producers and engineers – who have been stalwart in their support of Albion’s mission to make less familiar music by Vaughan Williams available to a wide audience. It’s a most enjoyable programme and a fitting tribute to VW. As usual, the documentation is excellent, including a valuable booklet essay by John Francis.

John Quinn

Previous reviews: Nick Barnard (September 2022) ~ John France (October 2022)
Flourish for Three Trumpets
Members of Tredegar Town Band
Serenade to Music (arr. Briggs)
David Briggs (organ)
She’s Like the Swallow
Mary Bevan (soprano); William Vann (piano)
The Winter’s Gone and Past
Nicky Spence (tenor); William Vann (piano)
I will give my Love an Apple
Roderick Williams (baritone); William Vann (piano)
Four Cambridge Flourishes for Four Trumpets
Numbers 1 and 2
Members of Tredegar Town Band
For All the Saints and improvisation
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, William Vann (conductor), Joshua Ryan (organ), David Briggs (organ)
Four Cambridge Flourishes for Four Trumpets: Numbers 3 and 4
Members of Tredegar Town Band
March Past of The Kitchen Utensils, from The Wasps (arr. Briggs)
David Briggs (organ)
Suite for Four Hands on One Pianoforte
Lynn Arnold and Charles Matthews (piano duet)
Variations on Aberystwyth (arr. Herbert Byard)
Charles Matthews (organ)
Pezzo Ostinato (arr Len Rhodes)
Charles Matthews (organ)
The Call, from Five Mystical Songs (arr Herbert Byard)
Charles Matthews (organ)
Two Herefordshire Carols (arr. Paul Hindmarsh)
Tredegar Town Band / Ian Porthouse
Dives and Lazarus
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea / William Vann
God be With You Till We Meet Again (Randolph)
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea / William Vann
Joshua Ryan (organ); Eloise Irving (soprano); Angus McPhee (bass)

Published: October 12, 2022

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