Top positive review
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Vivid and dramatic Walton; very good Vaughan Williams
on 20 July 2011
I have to admit to not being a great fan of the BBC Symphony Orchestra or Andrew Davis, but occasionally they hit the spot (more with modern repertoire I feel...). This is a live recording of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast taken from the Last Night of the Proms in 1994. It is performed by the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra with Bryn Terfel as soloist.
First of all I have to say that the atmosphere of the occasion is captured rather well on the recording, with all the choral voices and Bryn Terfel being recorded in vivid sound. Just occasionally one is aware of slightly muddied textures in the orchestra and the intrusion of the audience, but it honestly isn't enough to disrupt proceedings. Bryn Terfel is magnificent as the soloist with his powerful voice intoning the biblical prophesies. Credit also to the choir and to the orchestra, who are both on top form throughout. The choir enunciates very clearly and there is a wonderful bite to the orchestral sound. I felt that the louder, more exciting passages came off best, as Andrew Davis takes quite a brisk approach throughout, thereby creating a very coherent line through each section. Occasionally the orchestra sounds a little bit anonymous in the more reflective passages, but this is a minor quibble to be honest.
I have to admit that Vaughan Williams' Job was new to me, but it is an outstanding piece. It is essentially a one act ballet (even though it is entitled 'A Masque for Dancing'), travelling from the familiar pastoral style of Vaughan Williams in the introduction to a more waspish, extremely colourful 'Satan's Dance of Triumph' - a more bracing style of music which Vaughan Williams later adopts in his 4th and 6th Symphonies. The orchestration and melodic invention is very impressive and started to really make me think about Vaughan Williams' gifts as an orchestrator - a factor which is often overlooked. The playing of the BBCSO is fantastic throughout - vivid, detailed, with just the right balance of power and delicacy.