Whatever its idiosyncrasies might have been, the British Empire produced a crop of extraordinary individuals and three of the most intrepid were Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and George Mallory - men who were willing to parry oblivion `because it's there'. Vaughan Williams' Seventh Symphony could serve as a cenotaph for the triumvirate.
Armchair explorers take note: this performance of the Sinfonia Antarctica is a great success. Above all, it conveys immensity, heroism and peril. The First Movement in particular is hair-raising, as if one is trying to surmount the Second Step on Everest in the failing light. The London Philharmonic plays fierily. Sheila Armstrong and the Choir of the London Philharmonic are evocative in their wordless melismas. While it is a pity that no-one declaims the various superscriptions which preface each movement, the music-making is vivid enough to convey their meaning. The EMI recording is superlative.
The wind-machine is the one blot on this endeavour - it sounds like a two dollar kazoo from the opp-shop.
While the wider Haitink / RVW cycle has been issued as a bargain box, it is by no means a first choice, compelling as it is. This single issue still holds currency.