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Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Box set]

London Symphony Orchestra , Brian Rayner Cook , Ralph Vaughan Williams , Bryden Thomson , Yvonne Kenny^Catherine Bott , et al. Audio CD

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Disc: 1
1. A Sea Symphony (No.1): I. A Song For All Seas, All Ships - Moderato maestoso
2. A Sea Symphony (No.1): II. On The Beach At Night, Alone - Largo sostenuto
3. A Sea Symphony (No.1): III. Scherzo - The Waves - Allegro brillante
4. A Sea Symphony (No.1): IV The Explorers - Grave e molto adagio
Disc: 2
1. A London Symphony (No. 2): Lento - Allegro risoluto
2. A London Symphony (No. 2): Lento
3. A London Symphony (No. 2): Scherzo (Nocturne) - Allegro vivace
4. A London Symphony (No. 2): Andante con moto - Allegro - Epilogue
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. A Pastoral Symphony (No. 3): Molto moderato
2. A Pastoral Symphony (No. 3): Lento moderato
3. A Pastoral Symphony (No. 3): Moderato pesante
4. A Pastoral Symphony (No. 3): Lento
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Symphony No. 5 in D major: Preludio: Moderato
2. Scherzo: Presto misterioso
3. Symphony No. 5 in D major: Romanza: Lento
4. Symphony No. 5 in D major: Passacaglia: Moderato
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 5
1. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Prelude: Andante maestoso
2. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Scherzo: Moderato
3. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Landscape: Lento
4. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Intermezzo Andante sostenuto
See all 9 tracks on this disc

Product Description

The London Symphony Orchestra - Bryden Thomson, direction

Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good readings, great recordings 7 April 2004
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on Amazon.com
Critics worldwide have criticized this set as being too literal, as if to say the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams need thorough interpreting before they can be great.

I have never understood the charge against this set and have never understood critics that believe the symphonies are not strong enough to stand on their own without interpreter affectation. I agree the cycles by Adrian Boult (both of them) and Vernon Handley are wonderful and perhaps more consistent than this one, but neither conductor read the scores as thoroughly and both sets are a world away from this one in terms of sound.

The London Symphony Orchestra plays wonderfully throughout this set, from the Sea Symphony to the final note in Symphony 9. Meanwhile, they turn in one of the most underrated cerebral performances of "Pastoral" Symphony 3 ever committed to disc, LP, tape or wax cylinder.

The Thomson recording of 3 is a wonderful, literal, visceral and hyperintelligent reading of music that is normally spoiled by interpretation. Thomson also outstandingly in Vaughan Williams greatest symphonies including the "London" Symphony 2, the wartime Symphony 4 and Vaughan Williams most wonderful creation, Symphony 5.

I was a tad let down by "Antarctica" Symphony 7 when I first heard it. Today, however, it seems to fit well in the Thomson worldview representing the thoughts of Vaughan Williams and not his interpreters. The criticism that Thomson was not "atmospheric" in this recording deflects what it actually is: the music Vaughan Williams envisioned in his head at the time he composed it.

Vaughan Williams collaborated with Boult in his earliest recordings. He is said to have thought one way about the music, then told Boult, "But you play it the way you think correct." I guess this means there is no such thing as "definitive" Vaughan Williams, eh?

If you subscribe to that theory, you should hear this set for dynamic sound and playing. Among the integral sets availble, even if it does not project the atmospheric creations other interpreters have put on disk, Thomsen fares well against the best (Boult mono and stereo, Handley, Previn) and the rest (Bakels, Haitink, etc.) and sounds better than any of them.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No problem here, either 22 Jan 2001
By Kirk Haberman - Published on Amazon.com
This a beautifully played set. I had heard nothing about production flaws until I read the other reviews. The set I bought was fine. When I am feeling particularly like an anglophile, there are few things better to listen to then these performances of the Vaughan Williams symphonies. Thomson shows flexibility and breadth of expression in the diverse sorts of sounds that Vaughan Williams calls for. From what Sir Adrian Boult called the "modal blessedness" of the 3rd, to the jarring and dissonant 4 & 6(Vaughan Williams himself wasn't entirely sure what he thought of the 4th upon hearing it for the first time, "but this is what I meant by it.") with the tranquil 5th in between to the vast, craggy, and often inhuman landscapes of 7,8,9, the Thomson-molded sound can best be described as "British." The pastoral meloncholy, which is a peculiarly British mood, expressed in the early symphonies is dealt with masterfully as is the cool, detached and dissonant music of the later symphonies. Keeping in mind to what degree Vaughan Williams was rooted in English folk music and how oddly indifferent he was to the German symphonic tradition of Beethoven, Bruckner, & Mahler, these recordings, more than any others I've heard seem to express just what Vaughan Williams had in mind. In the midst of applauding Thomson's conducting, I would be remiss in not mentioning the fine playing of the London Symphony Orchestra. The brass in particular are excellent; playing often with the cold clarity and precision called for, and avoiding gushy sentimentality (even in 2,3, & 5). It is an all-round excellent set, and for what it's worth, I highly advise it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams with some steel in its spine 24 Oct 2005
By Paul Bubny - Published on Amazon.com
However much some of the other complete Vaughan Williams symphony cycles have to recommend them, I don't know that the composer would have cottoned to their tendency to either sentimentalize the music or play up its lyrical elements at the expense of sterner stuff. The late Bryden Thomson did neither, and the result is one of the most clear-eyed, tough-minded, and convincing VW cycles available--comparable to Adrian Boult's almost-complete 1950s series. Paradoxically, that sharp focus actually heightens the sense of mystery in passages such as the opening movement of the Eighth Symphony and the enigmatic final pages of the Sixth. Only "A Sea Symphony" is less than a total success, and even there the expansive final movement impresses. This 5-CD set omits the shorter works that served as makeweights in the individual issues, but Chandos has reissued some of those recordings elsewhere.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No problems here either. 21 Jun 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
A great set! While perhaps not as consistent as Handley's set (now on CfP), Thomson's achieves some very notable highpoints (particularly the 'London' Symphony and nos. 4, 5 and 6), and his performances are always eloquent and at times revelatory.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great RVW Cycle 15 Oct 2009
By Transfigured Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Bryden Thomson's Vaughan Williams cycle is highly praised by critics and fans alike and for good reasons: it's consistently good. These are clear-headed readings of all the symphonies. Thomson was a great conductor and his dedication to English classical music should not be ignored. If it weren't for Thomson's authoritive readings, then the works of Arnold Bax or John Ireland wouldn't be as well-known as they are today. Thomson conducting these symphonies is like coming home for Thomson in a sense, because RVW is indeed one the greatest English composer that ever lived. He is the greatest English symphonist that ever lived. In terms of originality, melodic/harmonic content, overall emotional gratification, and influence RVW's symphonies are unparalleled in England. Each symphony is like a sound-world unto itself.

These recordings, all recorded from 1987 to 1990, stand as a testament to Thomson's conducting. Masterful, passionate, and direct are words that I would describe this cycle. To my ears, one thing you can tell about Thomson's conducting is it's very clear and precise. He doesn't give into these symphonies more pastoral qualities, especially symphonies 1, 2, 3, and 5, which in the wrong hands can sound way too textural and lack that dynamic clarity these symphonies need. In this sense, Thomson is heading into Adrian Boult territory. Boult is still, in my opinion, the greatest RVW conductor, but Thomson does a really admirable job in this set.

The audio quality, unlike what another reviewer said, is fantastic. It's very typical of Chandos who I don't expect anything less from. The performances from the London Symphony Orchestra are also superb. Incredibly dynamic playing from the LSO.

If you're looking for a first RVW cycle or looking to suppliment a set or sets you already own, then you will find little wrong with the Thomson/LSO cycle. Highly recommended.

Unfortunately, this set does not contain any extras, but there have been some individual releases from Thomson that will compliment this set quite nicely and thus fully completing the Thomson RVW cycle:

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1; In the Fen Country; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; etc.
Vaughan Williams: Complete Concertos
Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem, etc / Bryden Thomson
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