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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the Finest Recording of this Piece, 18 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Audio CD)
I can whole-heartedly recommend this recording to you.

Vernon Handley and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have a natural understanding for Vaughan Williams music which is fully expressed here. The tempo of the Pastoral Symphony (through all four of its movements) is conducted with a controlled and perfectly paced hand. Handley's conducting style allows the listener to experience the full beauty and almost lyrical quality of this work without resorting to the stylistic gimmickry that unfortunately affects some other recordings of this symphony. From movement to movement, this is a symphony with an undulating flow. Close your eyes and let this beautiful music carry you away.

The 4th Symphony may not appeal to many as it is such a furiously angry work. I don't like it, but again, if one orchestra can perform it in a way that at least allows the listener to appreciate its undoubted quality, it is this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine reissue of strong and sympathetic interpretations, 25 Nov. 2012
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I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Audio CD)
This performance of the symphonies 3 and 4 can safely be ranked along with the finest currently available.

The third symphony, the Pastoral, is a generally peaceful work so the skill of the interpreters is to achieve interest without monotony. The composer was sometimes misleadingly known as a leading member of the British Cowpat School of music and dull performances of this work would add to that erroneous point of view. Nothing could be further from the truth however as the composer actually had a wartime scene in mind based on his own wartime experiences and the trumpet solo within the symphony is a poignant underlining of that situation. That solo is played using the natural notes of the Eb trumpet (without valves) with the natural 7th replacing the octave. This recalls a bugler practising and failing to reach the octave note and hitting the 7th in error. No worries of a misconceived pastoral idyll in this performance as Handley was far too much of an experienced Vaughan William advocate to let any sense of English dairy farming blunt the effect of the work.

The fourth symphony is a far cry from the third being frequently aggressive in tone and execution. In those respects it shares a similar territory to parts of the sixth symphony, sometimes considered to be the strongest of the set. Although apparently warlike in mood, the composer strongly denied any such connection. Indeed during a recording session he was heard to remark that he did not know if he liked it but that it was what he intended. What he had intended was to write a 'modern' symphony but within the compositional constraints of a 'classical' symphony.

The fourth symphony is a very fine work indeed and will reward those who are prepared to explore beyond the dissonance of the opening bars. It certainly has plenty of muscle and is not afraid to flex them. It must have come as rather a shock to early listeners expecting a more peaceful composition along the lines of the gentler but seriously intentioned third symphony as briefly described above or the composer's well known but unrelated folk song settings. Handley does not pull any punches in his interpretation. Berglund's performance is another version worth seeking out and notably forthright in its powerful delivery.

The English Folk Song Suite makes a totally enjoyable extra added since the previous release of these two symphonies and restores the relative calm of the third symphony

Handley and his Liverpudlians deliver fine performances of these two works and EMI's recording is well up to the task. For collectors attracted to this repertoire I would suggest that this should give most purchasers a great deal of satisfaction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MUSIC FOR YOUR LAST JOURNEY!, 28 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Audio CD)
The first moment of the Pastoral Symphony to the last, is just pure bliss. Vaughan Williams at his best. Get it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 12 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Audio CD)
Really beautiful rendition of one of BW's best symphonies.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A TONIC TO THE EARS AND SOUL, 16 May 2013
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Audio CD)
Vaughan Williams' symphonies can be challenging and intense, but the Pastoral is an intelelctual walk through the English countryside, where you meet friends along the way. Great value for money.
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Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony
Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Audio CD - 2002)
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