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4.8 out of 5 stars18
4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2011
If you want an inexpensive boxed set of the Vaughan Williams symphonies you will not go wrong here. This was Boult's second set of recordings of the Vaughan Williams symphonies (the earlier set is on Decca) and although the earlier set had the advantage of VW being in on the recording sessions (apart for No 9 as he died on the morning of the recording session), the EMI set has a warmth and eloquence which is very appealing. Boult, after all, gave the first performances of three of the symphonies (Nos 3,4 and 6) and by the time he recorded this set (1967-71) he had a lifetime's experience of performance. All the performances are outstanding and I'd pick out those of A London Symphony, No 4, 5 and 9 as potentially the finest recorded versions of these works. That of No 6 also appeared in a book featuring the 'Top 1000' classical CDs.
Unlike the poorly presented RCA/Slatkin set, which has also been reissued, the EMI set comes with excellent notes (updated for this reissue) by VW expert Michael Kennededy(the RCA set has none whatsoever). The individual CDs are intelligently coupled with nos 2 and 3 and 5 and 9 sharing a disc. This set represents a wonderfully perceptive and thoughtful traversal of the great landscapes of the Vaughan Williams symphonies.

Don't hesitate!

Added December 2015. A survey of recordings of Sinfonia Antartica in the current BBC Music Magazine recommends the one here as their No.1 choice.
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on 14 March 2012
Sir Adrian Boult, Ralph Vaughan Williams, EMI recordings from the late 1960s... need one say more? This is a wonderful set and an outstanding bargain. The only slight disappointment for me is the Sixth. I preferred Sir Adrian's earlier recording which I still have on a ten inch LP inherited from my father and among more recent recordings Andrew Davis's 1991 Teldec performance freezes my blood in a way that Boult's doesn't. I accept that there is a big element of subjective preference in this and others may well disagree. Overall, however, this is Sir Adrian Boult at his finest and the set is worth every penny of the remarkably modest asking price.
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on 10 April 2013
The CDs are in cardboard sleeves but I don't think that should be a worry and the box includes an atractive booklet about the symphonies. This is my first integral set of them but I have on LP Boult's recordings of 'A Sea Symphony' and 'A London Symphony'. I also have other VW CDs by others such as Haitink, Barbirolli, Handley, Bakels and Thompson. I bought this Boult set because I like both his EMI recordings of the 'Sea' and 'London' symphonies and wanted them on CD. I much prefer Sheila Armstrong's contribution at the close of the First to Felicity Lott's, the soprano on Haitink's excellent recording, but Lott doesn't move me as Armstrong does, who almost reduces me to tears. I realise that sometimes individual records are better than some others, for example, some critics think that Andrew Davies' Sixth is the very best, and buying what critics recommend is one approach to building a collection so long as you can afford it and are prepared to keep buying , because what are regarded as the best recordings constantly changes. This, of course, is where good box sets are very useful and this is a very good box set.

I haven't been at all disappointed by Boult's EMI set and yes, Sheila Armstrong's singing still almost reduces me to tears and not a single performance is less than very good. Overall,I prefer Hatink's'London' but Boult draws out the haunting beauty of the lavender seller in the second movement better than either Haitink or Barbirolli. If it was possible to wear out the CD of the Fifth and Ninth (I should add that I'm still reeling from the performances of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth symphonies at the Proms last year), I probably would have done so by now.

Wonderful set, fine sound and great value.
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on 15 May 2015
This is a very convenient way to get the foremost British symphony cycle with just the main works and no distracting fillers . The music is predominantly serious sounding , often tinged with nostalgia and sometimes filled with stormy anger as in symphonies 4 and 6 . Light it is certainly not . I particularly like the towering 9th symphony and this version has better sound than Boult`s earlier recording on the Everest label . Sir Adrian was a friend and champion of the composer and though there may be better interpretations of individual symphonies this set is still very worthwhile . Boult`s earlier version of "Sinfonia Antarctica" is an outstanding record and is available on the Belart label in exceptionally good mono .
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on 28 October 2012
I suppose this is worth £12, but VW lovers will find more revealing interpretations of most of these symphonies elsewhere. For example:
No.2 is much less involving than Handley (with the London Phil) or Boult in his 1952 recording
No.6 is duller than in Boult's earlier recordings
No.8 sounds a more interesting work under Barbirolli
No.9 - Handley makes more sense of the symphony, and in his hands the finale's climaxes are truly apocalyptic

Furthermore, what were possibly the two best discs in the previous issue (which I DID buy) of these 60's recordings have disappeared. They contained great recordings of Job, Serenade to Music, The Lark Ascending (Hugh Bean's famous performances), and Norfolk Rhapsody, plus a very good Tallis Fantasy.

On the plus side, Nos 3,4,5 and 7 are very good

(FEB 2014 EDIT: Jonathan Swain on R3's Building a Library show has just chosen Handley's 9th as the best recording, as I suggested above. I'm surprised at the number of 5-star ratings of this second Boult cycle, when some of the performances sound like expert runthroughs when compared with his 1950s set)

POSTSCRIPT: Most of the pieces missing from this re-release (but not Boult's supeb Job) are available for less than a fiver on a CD listed by Amazon as Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 April 2016
This slim boxed set will appeal to those who are already familiar with this great British composer but for some reason haven't yet got these Boult versions in their collection. The performances are never less than very good, and in some cases at the front of the pack.

The set would also be an excellent introduction to VW for those who are seeking to start a collection of his works. It might even serve as the sole representation of the composer, for those on a tight budget.
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on 13 May 2015
Superb set of CD's and very good value as well.
Sir Adrian Boult was one of the best interpreters of English music and this is well reflected in this set. Definitely recommended.
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on 1 December 2013
A well packaged set of classic recordings, digitally re-mastered and of good quality. The card case and envelopes for each disc make it space efficient, good to take in the car etc.
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on 30 October 2014
what can i say. to get all 9 symphonies , conducted by Sir Adrian Bolt at such a great price was a find and extremely satisfying
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on 13 July 2015
An excellent set of recordings. Sir Adrian Boult remains the best interpreter of VW's works.
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