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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams at his most seductive, 1 July 2012
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Job - A Masque for Dancing, Fantasia On a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus (Audio CD)
I am sometimes faintly ambivalent about the music of Vaughan Williams in that like any sentient musical soul I am instantly seduced by the sonority of his orchestration and the sweet melancholy of his sound world but do not much enjoy what sound to me like forced forays into spiky modernism in such as his Fourth Symphony. On the other hand, his harmonies and cadences are so instantly recognisable that he occasionally courts self-parody and one is manoeuvred into asking if the composition relies too heavily on certain musical tropes or mere atmospheric padding over thematic substance.

That is certainly not the case with the three master-works here. They represent Vaughan Williams at his absolute best and are played with maximum finesse and sumptuousness by Vernon Handley and the LPO. The strings headed by orchestra leader David Nolan could hardly be more opulent of tone, a quality enhanced by Handley's relaxed beat. He takes a slightly more indulgent approach than his mentor and teacher Sir Adrian Boult, whose brisker manner and more propulsively flexible beat shaves five minutes off the Masque compared with his pupil's version. Boult recorded "Job" four times but never had the advantage of digital sound; hence his otherwise very competitive bargain account from the 60's is afflicted with a fair amount of hiss and a rather more up-front acoustic than the rounded, slightly distanced ambience of St Augustine's, Kilburn, where Handley recorded this 1983 "Job" for EMI.

The lushly scored reveries of the three compositions here form a rich diet and listening to them all at one sitting could produce a touch of bucolic indigestion but one admires afresh VW's ability to synthesize Elizabethan dance with English folk song and stately anthems into a coherent entity which is forever looking nostalgically backward while maintaining a modern harmonic sensibility. Under Handley's baton, each episode of the Masque melds seamlessly into the next, from the measured pace of the opening Saraband to the brassy triumphalism of Satan's challenge to the insolent hypocrisy of Job's comforters (characterised by a seedy saxophone) to the ethereal beauty of Elihu's Dance of Youth, so meltingly played by Nolan and, to my ears, reminiscent at its opening of the Transformation music in Strauss's "Die Frau Ohne Schatten".

This is the perfect compilation for anyone wanting one bargain disc encompassing Vaughan Williams' most ravishing and typical music.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Job - a pointer to the future, 4 Feb 2009
By 
F. J. Dukes "Broadmayne" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Job - A Masque for Dancing, Fantasia On a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus (Audio CD)
VW's Job is often seen as a pointer to his later works and what a marvellous work it is. Some have even suggested it is symphonic in form but there is no mistaking the power and inventiveness of this music. In Vernon Handley, VW's music found a great proponent and his lifelong devotion to his music is beautifully expressed in all the works on this CD.
Vaughan Williams: Job
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RVW's Greatest Work Played With Fervour In A Superb Recording, 14 Jan 2012
By 
Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Job - A Masque for Dancing, Fantasia On a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus (Audio CD)
Job was recorded a number of times by Sir Adrian Boult with his beloved LPO but this digital recording by Vernon Handley raised the bar. Job is a work of the musical imagination absolutely teeming with great ideas, revelling in its abilities. Exactly what it is and how it should be done on stage invites a question mark (not a ballet, but a masque?). One of those curious creations to put alongside the Miraculous Mandarin (Bartok) and Baldr (Leifs).

For myself, I love the deeply moving Introduction and Saraband, the tender Minuet followed as it is by a devastating outburst and, of course, the Dance of Job's Comforters which concludes with that walloping organ entry (I remember being pinned to my seat at the Royal Albert Hall). Handley's recording deftly walks between the contemplative (bear in mind those Blake etchings which inspired this piece) and the cataclysmic (Job's indignities are truly appalling).

There hasn't been a recording since that can compete with this now classic 1984 EMI version, but for anyone tempted by Boult (the dedicatee, I think) I would recommend his LSO one for EMI. A DVD has recently come out as well, courtesy of ICA Classics.
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