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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2003
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. There have been some criticisms that the sound is not as full bodied as on some recordings - especially in the strings - this is probably because the actual forces specified by the composer are being used here. A lusher sound would need a larger orchestra. As it is the strings aquit themselves well here.
This certainly comes up to the standard of the recording by Barberolli with the Halle Orchestra in 1957, the year after they premiered the work.
All in all these are two fine recordings. If you like the Sinfonia Antartica it is worth having two different interpretations of this complex work, of which this should be one. The recording of the Eight Symphony can hold its head high next to any other.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2004
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2009
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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on 11 April 2015
Excellent Vaughan Williams.
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on 21 August 2015
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