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Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos. 7 "Sinfonia antartica" & 8 [CD]

Ralph Vaughan Williams , Kees Bakels , Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra , Lynda Russell , Waynflete Singers Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos. 7 "Sinfonia antartica" & 8 + Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos. 3 "Pastoral" & No. 6 + Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Kees Bakels
  • Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Audio CD (3 Aug 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00000AELD
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,670 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Symphony No. 7, "Sinfonia antartica": I. Prelude: Andante maestoso-Lento-Poco animato-Piu mosso-Tranquillo-Andante...- LargamenteChristopher Dowie 9:49Album Only
Listen  2. Symphony No. 7, "Sinfonia antartica": II. Scherzo: ModeratoChristopher Dowie 5:30£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Symphony No. 7, "Sinfonia antartica": III. Landscape: Lento -Christopher Dowie10:59Album Only
Listen  4. Symphony No. 7, "Sinfonia antartica": IV. Intermezzo: Andante sostenuto-Allegretto-Pesante-Tempo primo tranquilloChristopher Dowie 6:14£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Symphony No. 7, "Sinfonia antartica": V. Epilogue: Alla marcia, moderato (non troppo allegro) - Andante maestosoChristopher Dowie 8:02Album Only
Listen  6. Symphony No. 8 in D minor: I. Fantasia: Moderato-Presto-Andante...-Allegretto-Andante...-Allegro...-Andante...-Largamente-Tempo IBournemouth Symphony Orchestra10:53Album Only
Listen  7. Symphony No. 8 in D minor: II. Scherzo alla Marcia (per stromenti a fiato): Allegro alla marcia - Andante - Tempo primoBournemouth Symphony Orchestra 3:50£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Symphony No. 8 in D minor: III. Cavatina (Per stromenti ad arco): Lento espressivoBournemouth Symphony Orchestra 8:47Album Only
Listen  9. Symphony No. 8 in D minor: IV. Toccata: Moderato maestosoBournemouth Symphony Orchestra 5:05£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Movement superscriptions for Sinfonia antartica: I. Prelude: 'To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite' (Shelley: Prometheus Unbound)David Timson0:37£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Movement superscriptions for Sinfonia antartica: II. Scherzo: 'There go the ships' (Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 104)David Timson0:11£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Movement superscriptions for Sinfonia antartica: III. Landscape: 'Ye Ice Falls!' (Coleridge: Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni)David Timson0:26£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen13. Movement superscriptions for Sinfonia antartica: IV. Intermezzo: 'Love, all alike' (Donne: The Sun Rising)David Timson0:16£0.89  Buy MP3 
Listen14. Movement superscriptions for Sinfonia antartica: V. Epilogue: 'I do not regret this journey' (Captain Scott: Message to the Public)David Timson0:15£0.89  Buy MP3 


Product Description

Product Description

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Amazon.co.uk

Dutchman Kees Bakels presides over a notably clear-headed and consistently warm-hearted account of Vaughan Williams's breathtakingly evocative and stirring Sinfonia Antartica of 1952 (the Seventh of the composer's nine symphonies, drawn from material from his score for the 1949 Ealing film Scott of the Antarctic). With the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on impressive form--and fine contributions from the women from the Waynflete Singers, soprano Lynda Russell and organist Christopher Dowie (whose entry in the awesome central "Landscape" has plenty of tummy-wobbling grandeur)--Bakels's sympathetic reading generates a endearing cogency and (more important still) humanity. What's more, Naxos allow the listener to programme in separately the published superscriptions at the head of each movement: David Timson delivers the texts most eloquently. The Eighth Symphony (completed three years after its bigger brother here) also comes off well but is perhaps rather less memorable as an interpretation, and in the gorgeous "Cavatina" slow movement one tends to notice the marginal lack of refinement in the hard-working Bournemouth string section. All the same, if your budget won't extend to André Previn's identical LSO coupling on mid-price RCA Gold Seal, rest assured that this bargain-basement Naxos issue represents very decent value indeed. --Andrew Achenbach

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A chilly Antartica and deftly handled Eighth 3 Jan 2003
Format:Audio CD
Sinfonia Antartica (4 stars)
Vaughan Williams used his music for the film Scott of the Antartic as a basis for this symphony, but it is by no means simply film music arranged into movements. The whole structure has been rethought, new material added and new musical developments made. This is a real symphony, as the performance shows.
My reference recording is the masterly rich sounding one by Bernard Haitink with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Kees Bakels with the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra cannot compete for richness of sound, the acoustic here does have a brittle edge to it, however they are more successful at presenting the symphony as an integrated whole. Many recordings, in concentrating too much on each movement as a separate soundworld, can make it sound like an orchestral suite rather than a symphony. The limitations of the acoustic aside this is a highly persuasive version with every change of tempo and mood well handled. No one who has heard the slow third movement 'Landscape' on its own, as it someimes occurs on compilations, should be disappointed
Symphony No 8 (4 to 5 stars)
This symphony was written for John Barberolli and the Halle Orchestra. Written for quite a small 'Schubert' orchestra it is a playful exploration of orchestral colour. The first movement is for the whole orchestra, the second for the wind instruments only, the third for the strings and the fourth brings back the full orchestra together with every percussion instrument the composer could think of.
This is a defly handled performance with every contrast and texture in the music well displayed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome sound 21 Dec 2004
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is an amazing recording; through headphones every instrument can be placed with accuracy, but as a whole everything blends superbly. A great performance also.
My only complaint is that the pipe-organ in No7 seems to lack oomph, perhaps a characteristic of the organ at that particular hall. I've herad other recordings where the organ 'snarls', this one sounds like a sedate chapel organ. Never mind, all else is great.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Maximum marks from me for this symphony. Even the best symphonies can become hard going in places but not this one and that is probably down to the episodic nature of it.
The sound quality is superb and the playing as fantastic as you would expect from The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra - these guys are terrific!
I have experienced them with several Naxos Bartok releases as well as Robert Simpson's monumental symphony cycle and they never dissapoint me.
This is just an atmospheric and haunting soundscape. I have not seen the film but I don't need to to imagine the desolate, frozen wastelands!!
The opening Prelude takes you straight into the adventure and it's all Boys Own stuff from then on in. My favourite movement is the awesome 3rd -Landscape: Lento which is a sheer leviathan in it's unrelenting menace and power. The danger and forces of nature are in full effect. It just tramples you underfoot with it's slow and omnipotent melody. Love it!
There's also a great option to play the spoken narrative interludes before each movement IF you programme your player to do this. Otherwise you will hear the music uninterrupted and the narrative separateley at the end of the disc. Great touch.
And don't get me started on all the wind machines and the wordless choral work which is absoluteley haunting (Think Holst's Neptune). It's just perfection and places you right at the Antarctic!!! This is certainly one of my favourite symphonies and is a good one for the film score devotee.
Symphony 8?? It's excellent but I don't think it's as good as it's predecessor.
Actually Sinfonia Antarctica does make me think of the old movie The Thing From Another World. It's etereal and otherworldy qualites bringing to mind that classic 1950's SciFi/Horror flick. It just is that cinematic and imagination fuelling....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams Symphonies 7 & 8 19 Aug 2012
By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Vaughan Williams Symphonies Nos 7 & 8

There are two fine performances on this CD of symphonies by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The first is the Symphony No.7, Sinfonia Antartica. The symphony is a reworking into symphonic form for concert performance of the incidental music RVW composed for the 1948 film of Scott of the Antarctic. The symphony was completed and given its first performance in 1953 by the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. Here we have an equally fine orchestra -the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under a young Dutch conductor, Kees Bakels. The Naxos recording is of their usual fine quality. An interesting feature is that they have recorded a speaker declaiming the inscriptions with which Vaughan Williams prefaced each of the five movements. This is a perfectly fine performance but I have to state a preference for that by Bernard Haitink conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra on EMI - I feel the chill of the Antarctic wind more in their version.

The other music on this CD is the Symphony No. 8 by Vaughan Williams. The first movement is entitled `seven variations without a theme' - it's a kind of fantasia. The second movement is scored for wind only and is a march scherzo with a folk-like andante trio section. The third movement is a lovely Cavatina and the work ends with a bright Toccata introduced by tubular bells. This is a most enjoyable work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best "Sinfonia Antartica" Currently Available 23 Oct 2000
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The classic recorded performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antartica" (completed 1952) is Sir Adrian Boult's on EMI from the mid-1960s; a slightly later performance on RCA led by André Previn boasted superior sound but misjudged by prefacing each movement with spoken versions of RVW's epigraphs. (Thus interrupting the musical continuity in a score that depends heavily on a seamless transition from one mood to another.) Bernard Haitink (also on EMI) issued an "Antartica" about fifteen years ago, very close to Boult's in merit, but - in this day of classical-music démorale - "no longer available." Haitink's countryman, Kees Bakels, has "burned" a CD cycle of the RVW symphonies for Naxos, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and one entry therein couples the Eighth with the "Antartica" (ordinally the Seventh). As James Day notes in his book on RVW, the "Antartica" calls on the largest orchestra that the composer ever stipulated, with parts for organ, wind-machine, an enormous percussion battery, and wordless soprano-solo with female choral vocalise. The "Antartica" shares with the "Pastoral" and the Sixth the evocation of inhuman nature and of human courage pitted (heroically but vainly) against such nature. Boult grasped this aspect of the work, but the limited capacity of mid-60s analogue recording took its toll on the realization of his understanding. (The vinyl pressings also posed an obstacle. I owned the American Angel pressing as well as an EMI import; neither struck me as adequate.) Bakels, like Boult, sees that this is a grim account, a genuine sequel to the tragic E-Minor Symphony of 1947. Notice how he takes the crescendi in the Prelude, with the great climax at 1.50: It's truly "majestic," as the score says it should be; the ensuing Lento, with prominent xylophone and wordless voices, sounds very icy and haunted indeed. The Scherzo presents the danger of sounding too comical; Bakels avoids this pitfall. Of the symphony's core, the "Landscape" (Third Movement), Bakels makes just the inhuman, implacable, frigid monster that RVW must have had in mind, although the organist (beginning at 8.30) does not achieve quite the hard-edged quality that I recall from Boult. The Eighth Symphony is a less monumental score, but possesses a playful seriousness all its own. The Finale can become a welter of sound, as it did unfortunately in the Boult/EMI; but here it sounds forth in all its polyphonic glory, with the tuned percussion caught with great definition by the engineers.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable Sound Quality 17 Mar 2002
By Doc Sarvis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The "Antarctica Symphony" portion of this disk has been called "the best digital recording ever made", and is often recommended for use as a demonstration disk on high-end audio equipment. One listen and you'll understand why...this is truly a sonic marvel.
Not a bad accomplishment for budget-price label Naxos!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comparative Review v. Boult 9 Aug 2009
By Karl W. Nehring - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I had hoped to pick up both CDs at the same store, but the first shopping trip netted me only the Naxos version by Bakels. I had not played the Sinfonia Antartica for some time, but it did not take me long in listening to the Naxos version to hear that this was a performance and recording that was highly charged with energy. Some of the climaxes in the first movement were quite emphatic, and the organ in the third movement was recorded more powerfully than I had ever remembered hearing it. My initial feeling was that for a bargain, I was really getting bang for the buck (and I only spent about six of them). The recording was fun to listen to, and I played it a few times at home, in the car, and at work before I finally tracked down the Boult, which set me back about ten bucks.

In some ways, the Boult almost sounded like a different work. Gone were the explosive climaxes, the organ was much more diminutive, and frankly, I found myself disappointed and surprised that the Boult version seemed so tame compared to the Bakels. But I found the piece to be such an old friend, and the recordings so different, that I just kept listening to them, over and over--not really comparing them head to head, but rather trying to really get the full measure of each recording on its own terms before trying to measure each closely against the other in a more disciplined comparative listening session.

As I did this, I found the Bakels version sounding more and more mannered--even annoying at times, as in the big climaxes in the first movement, where Bakels always seemed to be telegraphing his punches. I could virtually hear the orchestra taking a deep breath and "winding up" to deliver a telling blow. This effect might be sonically exciting, but musically, it is less than satisfying. The Boult performance, although outwardly tamer, began to sound more and more musically satisfying, more refined, and more likely to wear well over the long haul.

As I did more careful listening, I found that there were things to admire about both CDs. The Boult seemed to have more of an integrated conception both in sound and performance. One way to describe it is to say that under Boult, the piece sounds more like a symphony, whereas under Bakels, it sounds more like a series of tone poems. Even the sound quality contributed to this effect, with the Boult sounding wider but not as deep, while the Bakels tended to separate instruments more clearly, while at the same time conveying greater depth. The biggest sonic difference was in the organ underpinning in the third movement, with the organ sound being given a more prominent place in the mix in the Bakels version. Still, the Boult seemed a bit more atmospheric, more chilling; in a piece titled Sinfonia antartica, chilling is good. Overall, I simply found the Boult to be a more satisfying performance, and the sound, while not the best, eminently satisfying and appropriate.

Still, the Naxos recording is quite admirable, and a tremendous bargain at its price. The more I listen to it, in fact, the more I am impressed by its sonic impact, and I am beginning to think that the sound is so impressive that it actually makes the performance seem more melodramatic than Bakels intended it to be. Has the medium become the message? (With bass like that on the Bakels disk, and a good subwoofer, the medium can definitely become the massage.)

For some folks, the choice between these two releases might come down to the couplings. The Naxos features the 8th Symphony, a basically pastoral piece with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink percussion section in the finale that is a lot of fun, while the Boult features the Aristophanic Suite from "The Wasps," a really enjoyable piece with its own moments of percussive propulsion.

Given that the price of the Boult is not that much more than the Bakels, I would recommend the Boult more highly, especially to the first-time buyer who has not heard this symphony before, but for sheer glory of sound, the Bakels cannot be beaten. In terms of performance, though, neither of these disks quite matches the Vernon Handley version on EMI Eminence (CD-EMX 2173, recorded in 1990 and released in 1991), but the Bakels CD has the best sound.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Two Eighths 30 July 2001
By Karl Henning - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I think many listeners (and reviewers) will focus more on the seventh symphony; so I leave the seventh to them, although I greatly enjoy this recording of the seventh, and am even modestly grateful that the recited superscriptions are included at the end, where they do not interrupt the sequence of the symphony itself.
The Vaughan Williams eighth symphony exhibits a few interesting parallels with the eighth symphony of the composer whose oeuvre established the "rule of nine" in the writing of symphonies: Beethoven.
Beethoven's Opus 93 strikes some listeners as both "a step backwards" from the rambunctious and expansive seventh (with its electrifying "double scherzo" and achingly intense theme-and-variations slow movement), and a mystification before the grandiose Opus 125. It is something of a look back towards Haydn; it is charming, and elegant, and seems to do entirely without the dramatic musical rhetoric of which Beethoven's third, fifth and seventh symphonies provide ample and potent illustration. It is the sort of thing which "musical progressivists" say we composers cannot do; you can almost hear the phrase spoken, "you can never go back."
Yet, in his eighth symphony, Beethoven succeeds, marvelously and musically; he does, and does not, "go back." Vaughan Williams does something of the same, in his eighth. Even though Vaughan Williams' seventh was composed originally as film music, and then adapted as a symphony in his `cycle' (or perhaps because of this), the eighth seems like a deliberate step away from musical dramtization, and into the realm of abstract, `pure' music, a music which functions on its own, not driven by any extra-musical `program.'
Now, the `point' to which Beethoven does and does not go back, is Haydn; the generation before, and a composer with whom Beethoven had taken lessons. The `point' to which Vaughan Williams does and does not go back, is musical Impressionism, and specifically Ravel. Vaughan Williams had taken some lessons with Ravel; and the `return to pure music' in the eighth is doubly apt here, as part of Ravel's Impressionism is a sort of `romantic neo-classicism' exemplified in "Le Tombeau de Couperin" and the piano concertos.
That Vaughan Williams made his eighth with the Beethoven-parallel in mind, seems to me confirmed in the opening of the second movement. Vaughan Williams' all-winds scherzo begins with too much of a `metronomic' gesture for this to be coincidental. This parallel does not become burdensome, because the `metronomic piece' functions differently in the two eighth symphonies: it is the slow movement in the Beethoven Op. 93, followed by the lovely Menuet and Trio (good heavens! didn't Beethoven realize how passé this was?), while in Vaughan Williams' eighth it serves as a scherzo followed by a richly beautiful slow movement for strings alone (in timbral balance of the string-less scherzo).
Where Vaughan Williams `does not go back' is, about two-thirds into the first movement, where, after some moments of trumpet-&-string doublings which seemed to evoke the sound-world of Prokofiev, the relatively smooth calm of most of the movement yields to the sort of orchestral menace normally associated with Shostakovich. This fury lasts but a moment, and gives way again to the idyllic calm of the opening material, but here is a musical point at which you wonder if it is really possible to `go back' ....
The last movement of the Vaughan Williams' eighth is bright and resplendent. It is almost mis-labeled; `toccata' traditionally means a `touched' piece, a keyboard work with figurations more characteristic of two hands at a keyboard, rather than a large ensemble of single-line instruments. But Vaughan Williams has a history of adapting the idea of the Toccata, as in his Toccata Marziale for band; and my musicological quibble does not get in the way of the piece, which reminds me more of a jubilant carillon.
--Karl
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performances of one of our greatest symphonists. 28 April 2004
By Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The posthumous fate of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) has not always been a kind one. After his death, his music passed through a prolonged period of being deeply unfashionable. Stodgy, tweedy Vaughan Williams--who could get into that?! But, like Elgar, whose music is also cast in a stuffy, stereotypically "British" light, there is much more to Vaughan Williams than one might think.
First, the man was a superb melodist. He was not a mere tunesmith, to be sure, but crafted works that are primarily conceived in terms of melodic development, and this makes his work immediately appealing. Second, he was a highly original thinker who used his colossal technique (he had a doctorate in composition and studied with Ravel) for surprisingly modern ends. His music can at times sound like a mixture of Bach and Debussy, but it is always unmistakably Vaughan Williams. He had a penchant for modal counterpoint, and his streams of parallel chords place his work squarely in the 20th century.
Vaughan Williams' unique talent for scoring is evident throughout this excellent recording of his 7th and 8th symphonies. The "Sinfonia antartica" is based upon a film score he supplied for a film about the explorer Robert Scott. It is by turns brooding and wistful--an ideal introduction to this magnificent composer. Symphony No. 8 is a more eclectic affair, brighter in temperament overall, but a rewarding example of the surprises that lurk around every corner of RVW's work.
Was he the greatest symphonist of the 20th century? The jury's still out. He certainly created a body of symphonic work that is second to none in its richness, diversity, and consistency. Mahler, Sibelius, and Shostakovich are usually considered the most important symphonists of the last century, but for those who seek other fare, you can't do better than Vaughan Williams.
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