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105 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This box set contains all of the symphonies and most of VW's well known works with the notable exception of 'The Lark Ascending'. Handley is renoun for being the natural successor to Boult, and he handles the baton well, giving a clarity and consistancy to this cycle.
I have to note the superb quality of the recording - very clean and unmuddy, allowing the listener...
Published on 28 Jan 2004 by Kenneth A. De Witt

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3.0 out of 5 stars The recipient says it was just what he wanted so happy days.
Purchased as a gift. The recipient says it was just what he wanted so happy days.
Published 9 days ago by R Pilgrim


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105 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 28 Jan 2004
By 
Kenneth A. De Witt "Longwalker" (Gloucestershire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
This box set contains all of the symphonies and most of VW's well known works with the notable exception of 'The Lark Ascending'. Handley is renoun for being the natural successor to Boult, and he handles the baton well, giving a clarity and consistancy to this cycle.
I have to note the superb quality of the recording - very clean and unmuddy, allowing the listener to unpick the interweaving orchestral layers.
Without any doubt this represents very good value for money, giving seven CD's for the price of one CD on the high street.
So, if you are updating your collection from vinyl or cassette, go for this one. If you want and introduction to a great composer, you will not find a better collection. Go on, buy and enjoy - you have treat in store.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RESTORES ONE'S FAITH IN HONEST MUSIC-MAKING, 29 Mar 2007
By 
Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
Thank God for Tod Handley. I vividly recall a year or two back, feeling particularly jaundiced after a succession of glitzy, superficial concerts by conductors far starrier and younger, having my faith in real music making restored by a Handley concert which included a scintillating Schubert Little C Major and a profoundly moving VW Sea Symphony.

That work, of course, is the springboard for this cycle of complete VW symphonies. And a very satisfying journey through this inspiring canon of nine it is, too. Handley's affinity with English music needs no reiterating, but his relationship with Vaughan Williams in particular is a special one. More than most, he is alive to the changing and developing nature of the different symphonies through Vaughan Williams life - from the rich Romantic panoply of the 1st, taking in the influence of study with Ravel in the 3rd, the violence of Nos.4 & 6 and the idealisation of his Pilgrim music as well as that of his beloved Tudor composers in the Fifth, right through to the exploration of new sonorities and form in 7, 8 and 9. Throughout the cycle, this is music making that is honest, perceptive, communicative and frequently illuminating and inspiring.

Handley's Sea Symphony has terrific sweep in the opening movement, ideal rhythmic crispness in the scherzo and real depth in the long, questing Finale. Its one drawback is perhaps the somewhat cramped acoustics of Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall compared to, say, the fuller sound of the Kingsway Hall in Boult's second recording. His London Symphony is as fine as any, though I do now miss the passages opened out in Hickox's recording of the Original Version.

I'm inclined to think this the best Pastoral of any on disc: it finds Handley very sensitive to all the overtones of VW's experiences of the Great War that lie behind its overt pastoralism - Flanders Fields as much as English ones. This is followed by a stunning Fourth, matched only by the composer's own performance. The grinding dissonances of its motto motif, the bounce of the jazzier rhythms, the dark Beethovenian transition to the Finale are all perfectly realised: "I don't know if I like it, but it's what I meant" in VW's famous phrase and I feel sure Handley's performance is just what he meant.

The Fifth finds fierce competition from Boult (twice), Barbirolli (twice) and Haitink (most purely symphonic of all). But Handley strikes a fine balance between the Pilgrim's Progress antecedents of much of the material and the `absolute music' arguments to which it is subjected. This disc is almost worth it for the glorious horn counterpoint at the climax of the first movement alone, picked out by Handley as by no other conductor in my experience. His Sixth is another blistering reading to set beside that of his mentor, Boult, in mono for Decca. Handley's pp final movement here is too mystical to be mistaken for the post-nuclear landscape it's often compared to - it seems closer to VW's great friend, Holst's, Neptune. Pacing and colour are the strengths of this Antarctica, but only Haitink really succeeds in making it sound truly symphonic. And No.8 was always the domain of its dedicatee, `Glorious John' Barbirolli, who seemed to have the secret of its somewhat obtuse Variations without a Theme opening movement, its Bartokian Strings only and Wind only inner movements and the clangour of its Finale with `all the phones and spiels know to the composer'. However the elusive 9th is one of the best of Handley's set. He really seems to understand its deep, dark, Hardyesque mysteries, grounded as those novels seem to be in the very earth and land of England, as well as its further explorations of intriguing sonorities with the use of flugelhorn and saxophones.

The fill-ups from the original discs are here as well, including a fine Job and a superb Flos campi, another elusive work that seems to speak of secrets that are not to be found in the VW biographies. These are all considerable performances that reflect Handley's long-standing empathy with and authority in this music. And all at a bargain price.
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126 of 132 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams as Nature Mystic and Transcendentalist, 28 July 2005
This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
Vaughan Williams Symphonies Vernon Handley.

This set of Vaughan Williams Symphonies is an obvious bargain. To start with it has the largest amount of music on it of any box set of Vaughan Williams symphonies, including not only the 50 minute Orchestral Ballet Job a Masque for Dancing but a representative selection of the composers other orchestral works. The performances are all good, so if you simply want a comprehensive survey of Vaughan Williams at a budget price this is the set to go for.

However, how does it stand up to closer scrutiny, with particular reference to the symphonies?

Vernon Handley is considered to be the natural successor to Adrian Boult, whose interpretations of these works are still viewed as a benchmark. These performances make it clear that Handley is very much his own man. His vision is of Vaughan Williams the nature mystic and transcendentalist. These elements are obvious in the composer's early works, but Handley reads these qualities into his later works as well, and conjours them out of them.

Symphony No 1: A Sea Symphony. Three Stars A good performance, but not one of the best. It has neither the burning conviction of Haitink on EMI or the panoramic breadth of Daniels on Naxos.

Symphony No 2: A London Symphony. Four Stars A fine atmospheric reading, but no performance of the shorter version is as expressive as Hickox' performance of the longer original score on Chandos.

Symphony No 3: A Pastoral Symphony Five Stars The highlight of the cycle. For Handley this is clearly Vaughan William's most personal utterance. Boult's interpretation is within earshot, but this is a far deeper and sensitive reading. Probably the finest recording of this symphony.

Symphony No 4. Four Stars. Handley's approach makes for a unique recording, more late romantic than early modern with the first movement sounding like a storm at sea. Some of the dance and jazz inflections are missed, as is some of the ferocity in the music, but a satisfying performance on its own terms.

Symphony No 5. Four Stars. After an incredible Third Symphony a similar Fifth could be expected. But this performance doesn't quite scale the same heights, with some of the depth missing. Still one of the better ones available.

Symphony No 6 Five stars Here Handley's premise of nature mysticism and transcendentalism pays unexpected dividends. He puts aside all military and post holocaust interpretations and makes this a symphony of the awakening of the collective human soul. This is a masterful alternative interpretation, especially in the final quiet movement which becomes a call for mankind to wake itself from its dreams and come alive.
Symphony No 7 Sinfonia Antartica Three Stars A good performance, but not a particularly deep one. For instance in the slow movement the underlying menace and danger remain unarticulated. This interpretation is of a dream world, but hardly of men's struggles against the elements. The sound fails to come anywhere near Haitink's benchmark reading on EMI.

Symphony No 8 Three Stars Again a good performance, but not a great one. The two benchmarks are the dedicatee Barberolli's from 1956 and Bakels' on Naxos from 1993. The two slow movements let things down by sounding slightly rushed. The most successful part is the well judged Finale.

Symphony No 9 Four Stars A good performance. As we would expect with Handley's approach the echoes of past works are well articulated and this sounds like a fitting end to the cycle.

Two further comments should be made, both of which are immediately apparent when comparing this set to the Haitink set on EMI. Firstly the sound is good but not great. This matters, especially in works like the Sea Symphony and Sinfonia Antartica. Secondly Handley has a clear vision but his phrasing could be more exact, this robs several performances here of that extra sparkle which could have added an extra star.

Does Handley's overall vision of Vaughan William's as nature mystic and transcendentalist pay dividends? The answer is often but by no means always. It works brilliantly in the Third and Sixth symphonies, but a greater range needs to be acknowledged in Vaughan William's music. The dark side often remains insufficiently acknowledged. This, perhaps surprsingly, proves to be a minor weakness in the fourth and fifth symphonies, but it is a major failing in the Sinfonia Antartica.

Finally, I would not be without this set. EMI now have two bargain sets of modern performances of these works. This one on Classics for Pleasure and the Haitink box. My advice is purchase both.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Vaughan Williams!!, 9 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
I first became interested in Vaughan Williams while listening to cassettes of the fine Andre Previn/LSO recordings of Vaughan Williams Symphonies' which they did for RCA in the 1960s. I then bought the famous Adrian Boult/LPO box set although was less impressed with this. (Blasphemy some would say.) No, I thought the Previn/LSO recordings would be hard to beat but along came Vernon Handley and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra during the 1980/90s to rival, if not beat them. In fairness though,these superb Handley/RLPO readings have the benefit of excellent digital sound by EMI which was not available in the 1960s of course.

1. A Sea Symphony. (One of the finest versions I have heard with the soloists,Choir and Orchestra blending with great power and beauty.) Five stars.

2. A London Symphony. (I have always liked VW London Symphony but it was never a real favourite until listening to this version by Handley. It's a very moving and atmospheric recording driven with real passion and skill by the RLPO players.) Five Stars.

3. A Pastoral Symphony. (This is widely thought to be the best ever recording of this Symphony on CD and after listening to it you can understand why. Vaughan Williams wrote it as a Requiem for the fallen in the First World War and it certainly is a fitting tribute. VW writes some very effective and moving instrumental solos throughout the Symphony. This includes for the violin,viola and cor anglais in the first movement and horn and trumpet in the second movement. The horn section playing throughout the Symphony is very strong particularly in the third movement. Very poignant also is the wordless soprano voice which ebbs away in the final movement. It's all played brilliantly by the RLPO and soloist Alison Barlow.) Five Stars.

4. Symphony No.4. (Handley and the RLPO deliver a very strong performance which sounds like a nation at war, which Vaughan Williams himself denied) Four stars.

5. Symphony No.5. (This Symphony, along with the 6th, has always been a favourite and I can't bear to listen to any other recordings of it. It's very movingly played by Handley and the RLPO and won a recording award in 1988.) Also on the same disc is a stunning recording of Flos campi which VW wrote for viola,Choir and small Orchestra. Five stars.

6. Symphony No.6. (In my opinion the weakest recording in this box set, although some Amazon reviewers would disagree with me. I would say the best 6th Symphony version I have heard is by Andre Previn and the LSO for RCA.)Three stars.

7. Sinfonia antartica. (A powerful and uplifting performance of VW Symphony No.7 with the soprano voice and organ used to stunning effect). Five stars.

8. Symphony No.8 (Vaughan Williams' most exotic Symphony played with great style and sensitivity.) Four stars.

9. Symphony No.9 (Vaughan Williams' last Symphony is a complex Symphony and quite striking with it's use of jazzy rhythms. It's recorded to great effect here by Handley and his RLPO with great use of the harp at the Symphony's climax.) Five stars.

So an excellent collection of Vaughan Williams' Symphonies with other works he wrote, including Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and Job. Handley recorded these pieces with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a great shame that Vernon Handley died at a relatively young age but he gave us so many great recordings of important British Composers. Including of course these very special interpretations of Vaughan Williams' nine Symphonies and they can be treasured for many years to come. Buy them and see how special they are.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 8 July 2012
By 
Michael Wilkinson (Hove, East Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
This is a superb set, despite any passing doubts about recording quality in the Sea Symphony or odd bits of phrasing elsewhere. For me the two highlights were the Pastoral, which is utterly beautiful (and I was privileged to hear Handley conduct it at the Cadogan, in his last London appearance), and the London Symphony. There is much to admire in Hickox' version of the original but I think the revision more organically coherent and, in this performance, deeply moving. These though are the highest peaks in a range of mountains. As well as the symphonies we have probably the finest of all recordings of 'Job', certainly one for my Desert Island.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Collection, 30 May 2013
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
This is a truly amazing collection of Vaughan Williams' music. A must for those who appreciate this genre and such good value.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, 19 Sep 2012
By 
R. Napier (Wiltshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
As someone reasonably well versed in the classical repertoire but a relative newcomer to recordings of Vaughan Williams, I offer my observations with an appropriate measure of humility.

These recordings have been an eye or rather an ear-opener to me. The music seems to have been captured with a finesse that I find superlative. I think that Vaughan Williams is undervalued and these recordings --- and you get a lot for your money -- go a long way to showing just how good he was. Highly recommended and the reproduction is excellent, BTW.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very clean recording. The text is informative, 22 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
Each CD contains very clear recordings. I download text from a source and could easily then follow thewords of the songs. I very much enjoyed listening them. The order came on time
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams at his most stunning, 20 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
Beautiful lyric and very English excellent production with a real brightness and a sweeping acoustic that takes you to a romantic mystic dimension
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great value, 4 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Nine Symphonies And Other Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
The sound on this is really good and the selection of symphonies and additional shorter pieces is excellent. No Lark Ascending, but it doesn't pretend to be a 'Complete Works' so I'm not complaining. Most people will already own that.
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