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Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 3 "Pastoral"

Ralph Vaughan Williams Audio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Performer: Rebecca Evans
  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Audio CD (19 Aug 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B00006FSPG
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,628 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Symphony No.3 "Pastoral"
2. Norfolk Rhapsody No.2
3. Norfolk Rhapsody No.1
4. The Running Set

Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

The understated and hence under-rated Pastoral Symphony, one of Vaughan Williams's most haunting creations, has lacked a definitive recording. Capturing the composer's vision (of a war-torn Great War landscape) across all four movements has so often been the problem--Haitink and Norrington, for example, have much to offer but not the whole package. Vernon Handley with the RLPO has come closest to that, but now Hickox and the admirable LSO take us still closer. There's a natural, unforced flow about this reading that simply works, with orchestral textures beautifully balanced, coloured and recorded. Time and again transitions from section to section are wonderfully handled, and the (unacknowledged) solo contributions are outstanding. In the last movement soprano Rebecca Evans shapes and paces her wordless lines to near perfection. Misgivings? Almost--the daringly broad tempo of the second movement means it clocks in at 10'27", a full two minutes longer than Handley. Hickox's phrasing inevitably sails close to the wind but somehow, magically, things hold together. The Norfolk Rhapsody No.2 (completed by Simon Hogger) is a delightful discovery--wistful and jolly by turns, like No.1, while The Running Set is uncomplicated frivolity--a string of British folk tunes designed for dance. --Andrew Green

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rhapsody! 17 Jan 2011
Format:Audio CD
I'd say the highlight here, indeed a good enough reason for purchase, is the premiere recording of the Norfolk Rhapsody No. 2! Beautifully tuneful and melancholy, with wonderful orchestration. The ending is remarkably evocative and distinctive, not in the least because the piece slowly winds down over about 3 minutes - not unusual for Vaughan Williams perhaps, but it is the elements involved: a beautiful-yet-bleak rolling motif in the violas (? - wish I could find a score) above which plaintive solos are heard, the music slowly moving through interesting harmonies and finally settling to a close on an unexpected major chord, though not a tierce de picardie. You can listen to the whole thing on youtube (and it is the same recording, being the only one!) to preview it before buying if need be!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
This is a recording of Vaughan Williams' 3rd Symphony (entitled the 'Pastoral'), a symphony directly related to the experiences of Vaughan Williams during the First World War (1914 - 1918). Although aged forty-one when war was declared, Vaughan Williams enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in France. In 1921 the 3rd Symphony was completed, with its premiere following on the 26th January 1922. It drew dismissive criticism (most notably from Sir Hugh Allen) as a work in which Vaughan Williams was considered to be "rolling over and over in a ploughed field on a wet day", a criticism which was right only in the recognition and inclusion of the imagery of a field. Such criticism would sting the composer in to revealing that "It's really war-time music - a great deal of it incubated when I used to go up at night with the ambulance at Eccoves and we went up a steep hill and there was a wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset - it's not really lambkins frisking at all as most people take for granted". There were fields - but they were martial and blood soaked. With this in mind the symphony might be considered as representing a form of requiem, lacking the striking of drums and alarums of trumpets usually invoked in the presentation of war, instead possessing a mystical quality of meditative tranquility.

This particular Chandos recording, under the baton of the late Richard Hickox in 2002, is immediately notable for the quality of delineation to be heard in the presentation of the score - there is an undeniable clarity in the musical line presented, which might best be thought of as being similar to a closely argued essay. It is designed to convey a highly concentrated interpretation of the score, apparent in the obvious highlighting of the soloists.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I absolutely love 10 July 2014
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I shall be including it in my next presentation to our U3A Musical Appreciation Group. I absolutely love it
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A darker than usual "Pastoral"? 13 Jan 2014
By Long-Time Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The picture on the cover here is appropriate: a sunset behind a line of WWI soldiers trudging across the landscape. Vaughan Williams spoke of how, as an ambulance driver in WWI, he would stop in the evening and gaze at the sunset, and the symphony evokes not just English pastoral pastels, but the sadness of war and the intense desire for a haven of peace within (or after) it. This CD received attention in Stereophile magazine, not just for being beautifully recorded, but for evoking the darker wartime ambiance that Vaughan Williams presumably had in mind beyond mere English pastoral beauty. The symphony contains many moods.

Hickox's interpretive choices serve the music well, and his is likely the best among recent digital recordings. It may be that the introspection and mystery of much of Vaughan Williams' music makes it ideal for listening at home, rather than when seated in a concert hall and distracted by bright lighting and other concertgoers. Pastoral nature music does not do well in a concert hall environment.

The only recording I know of that I can say is better than this is Andre Previn's, with the London Symphony. Previn carefully shapes and sculpts this music, which can easily sound amorphous and directionless. We hear more clearly its themes, paragraphs, and larger structures; his long, unhurried lines allow the music to unfold with utmost naturalness, yet the scherzo still has plenty of energy and a sense of suppressed power. Previn's recording, however, dates from the '70s and sounds a little dry today, but on many systems will still sound quite good. I recall that Thomson's was also good, but haven't heard it lately; Boult's is perfunctory, with poor sound; Haitink's is also rather perfunctory.

For those capable of appreciating the subtle moods and effects of this kind of music, Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony has always been and will always be a highly popular work.
5.0 out of 5 stars What remains of a proposed "folk song symphony" 13 Jun 2014
By John Abbott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Vaughan Williams had been interested in folk music since he was a boy. In December 1903, he noted down the tune of Bushes and Briars from a 70 year-old labourer who lived in the Essex village of Ingrave. Over the next ten years he collected more than 800 songs, and they had a profound effect on his development as a composer. Particularly significant was a week long visit to King’s Lynn in 1905, during which he collected some 30 songs. One was The Captain’s Apprentice as sung by the fisherman James Carter. This melody was used in the Norfolk Rhapsody No 1, the Sea Symphony and the Pastoral Symphony. Another was Ward the Pirate, used as a theme in both the first and second Rhapsodies.

After the visit, Vaughan Williams began to plan a full-scale folk-song symphony. Although such a symphony was never published, he did complete the three Norfolk Rhapsodies in 1905 and 1906, and these were originally planned as the separate movements of the symphony: No. 1 was to have been the first movement, No. 2 the slow movement and scherzo, and No.3 the finale, a march and trio using four folk tunes for its themes. All three of the Rhapsodies were performed during those years and reviewed in the press. But in 1914 the first was heavily revised and the remaining two withdrawn from publication. Two pages of the second Rhapsody and the whole score of the third went missing.

There is evidence of all this in the composer’s scrapbook of folk song material, from contemporary letters, programme notes and concert reviews. But now the Norfolk Rhapsody No 2 has re-surfaced (edited and completed by Stephen Hogger) and expertly recorded here by the late Richard Hickox, we get a clearer picture of how the complete symphony might have sounded. It’s more than possible that the third movement will also be re-discovered one day. Unitl then, other fragments remain of the source material. For instance, Vaughan Williams made arrangements with piano accompaniment of a number of the folk songs collected during that week, including The Captain’s Apprentice and Ward the Pirate, and seven of the field recordings he made in King’s Lynn have survived.
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