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on 1 October 2013
I can agree with most of the sentiments of the first reviewer, this is an important recording beautifully played, sung and recorded throughout, a 5 star disc without doubt. The most significant pieces are the Three Impressions for Orchestra which date from 1902-4 and are here given their premiere recordings. On a first hearing I think even seasoned Vaughan Williams admirers would find it difficult to name the composer without prior knowledge. Usually you can pick Vaughan Williams`s music within hearing a few bars but not so here, though repeated listening reveals some of his early fingerprints. These are tone paintings, misty dawns, dark landscapes, the sun delicately playing on the waves but with no significant musical development, that came with the slightly later and more assured Symphonic Impression; In the Fen Country. They were discarded by the composer but now emerge as fascinating insights into his early development. The eponymous, The Solent is the most substantial of these impressions lasting nearly 12 minutes, a seascape that opens and closes with a haunting melody on clarinet that was used again in mature works, notably the Sea Symphony and the 9th Symphony, so it must have had a deep meaning for him. After a rather mysterious string passage the music lightens with the full orchestra evoking the sea and shore until a glorious climax leads to a return of the motif that opened this beautiful piece. Burley Heath is a delightful miniature depicting perhaps, a day in the New Forest region of southern England. Listeners will have no doubt about the influence of Brahms in some of the woodwind writing and although I don't think any folksong is used the music sounds otherwise quintessentially English and concludes with a short viola solo. Harnham Down is a richly scored, meandering piece that has a hint of the influence of Delius as well as Wagner and Debussy. Definitely music to just close your eyes and soak in. Following the purely orchestral music there are two orchestrated song cycles. Firstly, Songs of Travel (book 1) so only the first 3 songs of this famous song cycle, beautifully sung by Roland Wood whose rich baritone gives remarkable clarity to Robert Louis Stevenson's words. Then The Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Strings, which as presented here are an absolute gem. There are no superlatives for Andrew Kennedy's singing as his voice soars above the orchestra in moments of deep rapture and contemplation how Vaughan Williams conjures such ecstasy from the words of these old hymns is beyond me to describe. If you know the earlier and more famous Five Mystical Songs then you will find this work a joy. The CD concludes with incidental music from an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge , composed for a BBC radio play in 1951 and obviously episodic followed by Prelude on an old Carol Tune a sumptuous orchestral arrangement of the familiar tune,"This is the truth as sent from above". Albion Music are to be congratulated on this excellent and enterprising disc, essential for any lover of English music and at a bargain price.
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on 1 October 2013
I suspect there have been many Vaughan Williams aficionados and less expert admirers who have wondered for years about the early, unrecorded The Solent 'Impression for Orchestra.' This admirer certainly has, and the wait has been well rewarded. But that is jumping the gun.
This latest offering from Albion Records, the recording arm of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is arguably the finest in an admirable catalogue. At first glance, a motley 60min collection with little to connect the individual works, but on closer examination all are based on or inspired by poetry or other literature, and generally cover the composer's earlier and later career.
We are indebted to fellow composer James Francis Brown for editing (and in the case of the first, completing)the Three Impressions for Orchestra,composed in that fascinating period before VW's lessons under Ravel which led to his characteristic mature style. For me these three pieces, given their premiere recordings here are the heart of the new disc, each containing themes and ideas developed in later works.
The first, Burley Heath, for all it depicts the country scene of the title, has a distinctly marine flavour to it, with its leaping figures at one point, to my ears at least anticipating the 'penguin theme' in Sinfonia Antartica. There is, nevertheless, a quite hefty Brahmsian influence here, but I can find some hints of Bax, and even Debussy.
So we come to the almost 12 minute impression, The Solent, beginning with a plaintive melody on clarinet, seeming silence then taken up on high strings, Tallis-like, in an absolute tearjerker moment. This is yet another expression of RVW's analogy of water/sea for life's journey, the mystery and uncertainty. It's a melody familiar to admirers from The Sea Symphony, England of Elizabeth, and his final, 9th Symphony where it is introduced on the flugelhorn of all things. The Solent is by no means 'fully RVW', with German influence still much in evidence, with at least a hint of the Parsifal Holy Grail (again, to my ears). For me, this little gem alone is worth the price of the Cd.
The third impression, Harnham Down, is yet another precursor, this time, of the much later Oxford Elegy, based on part of Matthew Arnold's Scholar Gypsy, set for orchestra alone. There remains the German influence in this early 1904 work, Wagners Tristan comes to mind. Again, well worth having.
Arrangements of the Songs of Travel (first book) and Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Strings form the middle of the disc with a superb contribution from tenor Andrew Kennedy.
The other premiere recording is music for the 1951 radio play The Mayor of Casterbridge, the main theme of which was reused by RVW in his Prelude on an Old Carol Tune, also given here and bookending the incidental music with the Weyhill Fair Song (a tune also used in the play) sung very characterfully by baritone Roland Wood.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Paul Daniel are no strangers to recording Vaughan Williams, and the magnificently recorded performance is full of character, robustness and sensitivity in every department.
The excellent informative 20 page booklet,by Stephen Connock, with its atmospheric picture of The Needles complete the package. An utter joy.
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on 7 February 2014
Those who've long since collected the major works of the masters usually find themselves exploring lesser-known byways as an alternative to accumulating second and third versions of mainstream pieces. It's a pursuit fraught with dead ends as much as rewards. Many unrecorded works are so for a reason.
That's far from the case here. It's a superb disc in every way. The Three Impressions for Orchestra are early, shortish but very evocative tone poems with unmistakable VW fingerprints - think 'In the Fen Country' - well worth the price of the disc alone.
Three of VW's Songs of Travel, orchestrated by the composer, are nicely sung in a rich baritone by Roland Wood, though I marginally prefer the piano-accompanied versions.
The big surprise for me was the Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola Obbligato and Strings, recorded before I believe but new to me. Absolutely top-drawer VW, breathtakingly sung by Andrew Kennedy, surely a name for the future with a very fine Tom Rakewell to his credit (his acting is as good as his singing) on dvd also.
The rest of the disc is music for, or associated with, The Mayor of Casterbridge, much of it in variation form on the carol 'On Christmas Night the Joy-Bells ring'. Not absolutely essential Vaughan Williams but well-worth hearing.
Regardless, there are more than 40 minutes of music on here that no lovers of this composer will want to be without.
Albion give the RLPO a far better recording than Naxos have managed in their Shostakovich series, Paul Daniel is excellent as usual, the booklet notes are first-class and there's a lovely photo of The Needles on the cover. Well done Albion, all round!
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on 24 December 2013
Anyone knowing Vaughan Williams's ninth symphony, knew of the existence of a symphonic poem "The Solent". The composer borrowed in his last completed orchestral work from this early composition. That makes one curious to the original, that Vaughan Williams never published as he was not satisfied with it.
He was right. The "Three impressions for orchestra", as they are called on this disk, are interesting, give the listener some rewarding moments, but aren't top drawer RVW. In fact, they seem to be the leftovers from his table. Fine music, but only interesting for those who want to know what the composer wrote before his great works.
Most other music on this cd is not the best RVW wrote. The four hymns and the music for The Mayor of Casterbridge are interesting to get acquainted to, but anyone who wants to invest in Vaughan Williams's oeuvre, should start elsewhere.
The songs of travel are of course well known and belong to the top rank of the composers works, The first set get a good performance here, however, these songs are not the reason fur buying this cd. That reason are the unknown compositions and, alas, maybe they'd better remained unknown. No undiscovered masterworks here, although Paul Daniel, soloists and orchestra do a fine job.
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on 19 November 2013
If you love Vaughan Williams, this is the disc for you.I heard tracks from it on the radio. It is superb music, wonderfully performed and recorded
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on 6 January 2015
This CD is a must for RVW fans, with the excellent and lovely descriptive pieces, of which The Solent is one part, premièred here! But for me the most exciting and wonderful revelation was Andrew Kennedy's voice in the exceptionally beautiful Four Hymns: astounding, exhilarating. The Hosannas in the first hymn sent shivers up my spine, so powerful and absolutely gorgeous. He is so well suited to RVW, and these have shot straight into my list of best-loved music - nestling nicely by Thomas Allen's rendering of the Five Mystic Songs. Not impressed by Roland Wood in the lovely Songs of Travel though, (Thomas Allen for me there) but no matter, the CD is an absolute must-buy for the other parts. Perfect playing by the RLPO under Paul Daniel of course, to be savoured and enjoyed.
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on 5 December 2014
I bought this CD mainly because of hearing one of the pieces from "The Mayor of Casterbridge", on the radio, and being a fan of both Vaughan-Williams and Thomas Hardy, I was fairly sure I would like "The Solent". I have not played it many times yet, but it shows another side of Vaughan-Williams - writing the music for a Radio adaption of a novel. The other pieces on "The Solent" are also melodic and relaxing as you would expect from V-W. I would recommend this CD to anyone who likes Vaughan-Williams/English Pastoral music.
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on 29 December 2013
Really nice to find some Vaughan Williams works that we don't already have in our collection. This was such a good present. Thank you.
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on 14 December 2013
It is is gift, so I haven't played it but heard this recording on the radio, which prompted me to buy it for a VW fan
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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2014
A much appreciated addition to the RVW catalogue. This composer should be filling concert halls across Europe.
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