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The greatest 'Lark Ascending' recording
on 21 January 2006
This is the RVW disc which started my collection of his music over ten years ago. It opens with a beautifully performed 'Serenade to Music', the only vocal track on the album. If you are normally allergic to 'classical' singing and prefer instrumental pieces, this may just convert you, because it has so many bewitching moments - and besides, the vocals on this recording are not quite as forward as other versions.
Again, if your opinion of British music is that it consists of 'marches and ceremonials', the English Folk Song Suite may overturn your thoughts on that genre. It certainly does include a march, but it's irresistable, and the Intermezzo is a gem.
The Norfolk Rhapsody and Fen Country pieces are atmospheric tone-poems from RVW's earliest years of success, impressionistic, misty creations with a hint of folk tune.
The one piece you should not hesitate to buy this disc for, though, is The Lark Ascending (with Hugh Bean on violin). There are plenty of recordings of this out there of course, but none has ever displaced this one. The recording of violin and orchestra is perfectly balanced, and the actual performances masterly. This is a popular piece, but it needs a sure touch, anything less and the poetry vanishes. Crucial (to my ears) is the sustained chord held by the orchestra right at the start - it should make you see things! If that's done right, as it is here, the piece performs its magic for the listener effortlessly from that point on.
This Lark recording often turns up elsewhere, but this is the best disc to have. If it could convert a cautious new 'classical' listener like me into a RVW obsessive within its duration, then it can't come with any stronger recommendation.