Vaughan Williams has become enormously popular in the 50+ years since his death. And it's no wonder. No other composer can match him in his laid-back, pastoral spirit that will inevitably relax and calm your spirit. And this CD features his most popular works, most notably his Tallis Fantasia and the nearly immortalized The Lark Ascending. And that's not to mention the stunning arrangement of the ever-popular Greensleeves, and the dark, melancholy Five Variants.
Marriner and ASMF give performances of these essential pieces that are probably not rivaled elsewhere. These are not overly sentimental performances, but neither is the music simply run through. Marriner and ASMF have incredible insight into the true nature of these pieces. Just listen to their rendition of The Lark Ascending. You feel yourself being lifted up with the lark while the entire world around you is exploding in beauty and song. Iona Brown's violin solo is tender and affectionate, not to mention Marriner and ASMF's orchestral accompaniment. And then there's the Tallis Fantasia. Here Marriner pulls an incredibly full sound from his orchestra in contrast to the gently reflective soloists. In the climax, Marriner does not create hysteria but rather lets the music speak for itself. The Greensleeves Fantasia becomes deeply thoughtful, thanks to the lush strings and wonderful flute playing of Williams Bennett. Marriner's conducting is particularly insightful in the Five Variants. Too many conductors take this piece at a fast pace. Marriner's tempo is slow while still breathing. For me, the piece is an autumnal reflection on regrets of the past.
The sound quality of this recording is quite good, especially if you consider its vintage - the early 70's. For the wonderful performances you'll get of such wonderful pieces, you'd be a loser is you didn't buy it. Highly, highly recommended.