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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams on Melodiya!
My goodness, I never thought that I would live to see this. True, Rozhdestvensky recorded the Fifth Symphony and Sancta Civitas on an old, long gone BBC Radio Classics CD, but that very fine performance was with the BBC SO. What we have here is a complete set of the symphonies recorded at live concerts at the end of the soviet era (1988-89). The audience appear to enjoy...
Published 10 months ago by Jeffrey Davis

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Rough Diamond?
It's fascinating to hear Vaughan Williams from a different perspective and full marks to everyone involved for undertaking this project, but I would only recommend this as a second set for those who already know the music and own other recordings, as the overall impression is that the musicians were under-rehearsed. It feels churlish to criticise this set, but there were...
Published 1 month ago by Captain Pike


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams on Melodiya!, 11 Jun. 2014
By 
Jeffrey Davis "jmd555555" (Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
My goodness, I never thought that I would live to see this. True, Rozhdestvensky recorded the Fifth Symphony and Sancta Civitas on an old, long gone BBC Radio Classics CD, but that very fine performance was with the BBC SO. What we have here is a complete set of the symphonies recorded at live concerts at the end of the soviet era (1988-89). The audience appear to enjoy the works and someone always seems to shout out their approval amidst the applause (I wonder if it is the same person?) This is for me the most exciting Vaughan Williams release since the Hickox recording of the 1913 version of 'A London Symphony'. It is rather like the appearance of the Vernon Handley cycle of the Bax symphonies on Chandos when none had been previously available, although Rozhdestvensky's Melodiya 'A Sea Symphony' had been around before. I enjoyed all the performances, which have a soviet accent (literally at the opening of Symphony No.1) but are completely idiomatic, deeply felt and performed with a great sense of urgency - I enjoyed them all and, for the first time ever, listened to the entire cycle in chronological sequence. As they are live performances not everything goes well and at the very opening of No 6 it sounds like the orchestra are not quite starting at the same time, but otherwise this is a very fine performance, although a bit unsettling to hear the Epilogue sounding louder as it progresses. I agree with the booklet note writer that No. 6 is the greatest of all the cycle as it combines the violence of No. 4 with the spiritual qualities of No. 5 to create a most disturbing synthesis. I thought that the greatest performance of all was No. 7 'Sinfonia Antartica' notwithstanding an odd 'Dr Phibes' moment during an organ solo. The saxophones in the sixth and ninth symphonies are suitably 'jazzy'. By the way, on the box I received the composer's first name is spelt correctly, although it is clear that they thought that 'Vaughan' was his middle name. Don't miss this. It could be deleted at any time and then only available at an absurd price. I would not be without a cycle by Boult but this is not to be missed - an extraordinary release.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As others see us, 19 Jun. 2014
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Dr. Rodney S. Newton (East Barnet, Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
During his tenure as principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1978-81) Gennady Rozhdestvensky announced his intention to give a cycle of Vaughan Williams symphonies in Russia. This Melodiya release, taken from live broadcasts of concerts in the Grand Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic Society between 1988 and 1989, sees the realisation of that intention, and most interesting it is. Here we have a complete cycle of the nine symphonies of a composer considered quintessentially 'English', interpreted by a major Russian conductor and performers for whom the project must have represented a voyage into hitherto uncharted waters.
However, I think it important that potential purchasers of this cycle are aware of exactly what is on offer. This is a collection of live, unedited performances from broadcast material which suffers from a number of drawbacks, not least the microphone placing which, at times, gives undue prominence to certain instruments whilst pushing others into the background. This leads to serious problems of balance which affects the listener's perception of the harmony and gives a false impression of what is in the score. Furthermore, the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, although excellent in some areas, does not sound like a world class body and I have a suspicion that the strings were not up to full strength, the violin tone being rather scrawny and undernourished at times (unusual in a Russian orchestra where the standard is normally so high). The performances themselves are marred in places by fluffed notes, poor intonation, misreads, misunderstandings of instructions and examples of untidy ensemble (some verging on the catastrophic). Thus, in terms of playing and recording quality, I do not think that this cycle can be fairly compared with the studio-made ones of Boult, Previn, Handley, Haitink, Sir Andrew Davis, Slatkin or Hickox, from which most (if not all) errors have been removed and the balance carefully adjusted. For this reason I have awarded it only four stars.
However, for those who are not perfectionists and respond to the immediacy of live, 'warts and all' performances (and I am among them), this cycle represents a fascinating, sometimes thrilling and occasionally moving experience and an opportunity to hear this repertoire given a fresh approach, free of stultifying tradition and over-familiarity.
In 'A Sea Symphony', Rozhdestvensky's tempi are fairly broad in the main and his interpretation comparable to that of Sir Adrian Boult, although when he wants to get a move on, things go like the wind! The initial allegro after letter E in the first movement skips along with uncommon vitality and, in the Scherzo, the performers certainly have a stiff breeze in their sails. However, one is aware that the well-drilled choirs and the two fine soloists (soprano Tatiana Smoliakova and baritone Boris Vassiliev) are struggling with the language, making the text unintelligible for much of the way. No matter - there is great commitment in the singing and playing and I find it very satisfying, despite a heart-stopping moment in the first movement when the chorus fades out altogether, leaving timpani and brass to put things back on track.
'A London Symphony' is given a similarly vivid reading, capturing the spirit of the piece, if not always the letter. The playing of the principal trumpet in this, and in the cycle as a whole, deserves special mention, not least because it so secure and the style so 'English' and utterly un-Russian (those who are aware of the hard-edged, vibrato-laden style of Russian brass playing will know what I mean). Indeed, in many places, the performers seems to be following this outstanding player. I am therefore led to surmise that it must have been a British player (John Wilbraham possibly?) who was imported as a guest for these concerts.
'A Pastoral Symphony' is taken at a very leisurely gait for most of the time and tends towards dullness in my view, although the elegiac second movement is crowned by a sublime trumpet solo from our reliable friend. The final movement, however, is taken rather faster than one is used to, but the playing is expressive and framed fore and aft in wordless melismas by the beautiful soprano voice of Elena Doff-Donskaya (a little on the sharp side on her initial entry, but dead in tune at the end of the piece).
Rozhdestvensky appears to view the growling opening of the 4th Symphony as a slowish introduction to the main argument (here his approach resembles that of Bernstein) and his tempo is somewhat slower that of most interpreters (including the composer himself). However, once the march-like subsidiary subject gets underway, the performance is full of energy and the evident enthusiasm of the players for the last two movements is a joy to hear. Rarely has the door been slammed shut so decisively at the very end of the symphony as it is here (although a little untidy ensemble playing lets the side down).
For the 5th Symphony, Rozhdestvensky again opts for a fairly relaxed approach and shapes the whole work beautifully (as he does on his old BBC Radio Classics CD where he had the advantage of the BBC Symphony Orchestra on fine form), though his Russian players' unfamiliarity with the music occasionally leads to looseness in ensemble and the odd misjudgement (the timpani 'fortes' before figure 10 in the second movement are grotesquely overplayed). However, the spiritual ecstasy of the Romanza is captured well and the solo playing is eloquent (although some balance problems in the wind - most likely due to microphone placing - become an issue). The final movement is convincingly paced and the final pages ascend to heaven in appropriate rapture (the audience responding with warmth).
The huge allargando with which Rozhdestvensky begins the tumultuous first movement of Symphony No 6 reminds one of Barbirolli and the Russian's reading is very much in line with those of most of the other major interpreters of this masterwork (although a false entry by an over-eager double bass player in the very first bar causes momentary alarm). Scrappy ensemble playing spoils some of the thrust of the first movement's musical argument and the 'big tune' at figure 15 lacks expansiveness, but the dramatic tension is well maintained in the second movement and the apparent glee with which the Russian players handle the gritty counterpoint of the Scherzo is palpable. The austere atmosphere of the finale with its equivocal ending is well maintained and the silence of the audience during this quietest of movements is impressive (an isolated cough aside), especially since the concert was given on the last day of October 1988.
'Sinfonia Antartica' also gets a dramatic reading, with notable contributions from the estimable Elena Dof-Donskaya and the ladies of the USSR Chamber Choir in their eerie 'Antarctic wind' passages. Some bad intonation in the first movement detracts from a largely satisfactory performance. Rozhdestvensky's marine life in the second movement appears to be racing through the icy waves and the playing becomes scrappy, although the penguins waddle tidily enough. Untidy ensemble and intonation problems bedevil the atmospheric opening of the third movement, though the real casualty is the mighty organ solo which forms the climax of the movement. Although marked 'fff' in the score, it sounds as if the instrument is in another hall and heard through an open window (this may possibly have been due to microphone failure or an engineer neglecting to open a channel). A sprinkling of wrong notes from both organist and orchestra do not help. The gentle Romanza is dispatched in a rather perfunctory manner, though completely devoid of any trace of cloying sentimentality, while the final movement begins urgently and proceeds with a fine dramatic drive. Although some untidiness creeps in along the way, the desolate, wind-swept final pages are well executed.
The 8th Symphony, that showpiece for Barbirolli's Halle Orchestra and a tribute to the conductor, receives a careful performance of its first movement, with the tempi perhaps a little too steady. The fast music of the first variation lacks the customary sparkle and the whole movement sounds somewhat colourless, as if the orchestra was tentatively feeling it's way (which it may well have been). The quirky second movement for wind and brass alone fares considerably better with secure, sprightly playing, while the romantic third movement for strings is given a tender reading. The finale, with its battery of 'phones and spiels' (as the composer put it), is played reasonably well, though Vaughan Williams does not get the three tuned gongs that he clearly specified, but rather three splashy tam-tams which give a very different effect.
The enigmatic 9th Symphony - a late masterpiece that has flummoxed more than one conductor - receives a remarkably assured reading from Rozhdestvensky, comparable with the best interpreters (such as Boult, Handley or Stokowski). The Russian forces sound completely at home in the brooding first movement with its sudden mood swings and the beautiful second subject which begins on the clarinets is eloquently played, although the strings appear somewhat reticent when they enter thereafter (possibly due to poor balance in the control room). Rozhdestvensky's tempi for this movement sound just right and allow the mighty edifice to unfold unhurriedly; only a little imprecision spoils the picture at times. The lonely flugel horn which begins the second movement is played so poetically that surely it must be our 'guest' again (the style being so un-Russian as to make my conjecture more than likely) and the music which follows - the grim march and the gentle, emotive 'Tess of the D'Urbevilles' material - is played with conviction and passion. The malevolent Scherzo with its cavorting saxophones is given a secure, colourful reading, while the bipartite finale is superbly shaped and culminates in a final coda that perhaps lacks just a little grandeur. All in all, this one of the best played and best conducted symphonies of the set.
The booklet notes, translated from the Russian of Boris Mukosei, reads like the work of one who is unfamiliar with the music and its background and has gleaned his information from textbooks and a perusal of the scores (although Graham Muncy of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is credited with assistance).
This release, despite all it's shortcomings, is a major contribution to the burgeoning Vaughan Williams discography and a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in this composer and possesses one or more of the studio-made cycles. Moreover, it firmly gives the lie to the assertion that British music of this nature is not exportable. Bolshoe spasibo, Gennady Rozhdestvensky!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning R.V.W symphonies on Melodiya, 10 July 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
Buy now before the deletions axe strikes!This is the greatest set of the complete symphonies since Boults.Ignore some minor technical flaws----the interpretations are magnificant.The greatest performances are 9,7,4,3 and 6 in that order.The London is lively and very well played.As you would expect the Russian brass is thrilling but there also much lyrical tenderness in particular the ravishing Romanza of no.5.This set confirms my view that no.9 is a great symphony.The great performance, at the 2008 Proms, by Sir Andrew Davis of no.9 ended the absurd idea that this symphony showed a falling off of musical inspiration as in reality it showed R.V.W. on top form and looking to the future.Quite remarkable for a man of 85!Please buy this set as it will give you great pleasure and comfirm Vaughan Williams as the greatest British symphonist of theC20th,and he can be placed in the pantheon with Nielsen,Sibelius,Schostakovich and Prokofiev as one of the greatest symphonists of the C20th.Start with the great performance of no 9 but where ever you start you in for a treat.I must confess the Russian voice timbre in The Sea Symphony sounds a little strange but it is still a marvelous account.Whoever states British music cannot be played by foreign orchestras should listen to this set and have their prejudices confounded.Robert J.Parry.Great Yarmouth.Norfolk.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected but totally enthralling from the great opening chorus to the enigmatic close of the last ..., 2 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
Unexpected but totally enthralling from the great opening chorus to the enigmatic close of the last symphony. What a cycle and what performances by the great Russian Anglophile and his superb players and singers.
Edward Clark
Producer of three St Petersburg British Music Festivals
2007,2009,2013
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truly a great buy., 19 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
a pleasure to own this fascinating set... truly a great buy ... best vaughan williams release for a while....highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Rough Diamond?, 6 Mar. 2015
By 
Captain Pike (Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
It's fascinating to hear Vaughan Williams from a different perspective and full marks to everyone involved for undertaking this project, but I would only recommend this as a second set for those who already know the music and own other recordings, as the overall impression is that the musicians were under-rehearsed. It feels churlish to criticise this set, but there were a few howlers, from the organ in the Sinfonia Antarctica to the unusual pronouciation of "Behold, thee sea..." in the First Symphony.

However, what I did like about the set was the freshness of an unfamiliar, foreign sound in the music - something that really my ears prick up and listen more attentively than I have done for quite a while.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and insightful performances that top even the very best-a revelatory accomplishment., 7 July 2014
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
Whether coincidence or not I cannot say, but the release of this set coincides with the completion of a series of concerts by veteran Maestro Rozhdestvensky spread over 3 years and entitled "Albion."
In this series, given in Moscow and St. Petersburg with various orchestras including the one featured on this set, he conducted not only the complete symphonies of RVW, Elgar and Walton, but other works by Bax, Britten, Moeran and Finzi.

The set under review emanates from the mid 1980s and is recorded from live concerts in ADD sound, not the DDD of the contemporary Mahler cycle under Svetlanov.
If the sound is a little less immediate than the Svetlanov, it is generally very pleasing with very good balance with great detail and a good deal of warmth. There is a real sense of a concert environment, unfortunately enhanced by the occasional cough and splutter from the audience, but overall this is a plus.
These symphonies are challenging technically-even the BRSO comes awry at times in their electrifying recording of the 6th under the late Sir Colin Davis, so it is no surprise that the USSR Symphony struggles with precision at various points-but overall the technical standard is breathtaking!

I've long been a foremost advocate of British Music being performed by non-British Conductors and Orchestras who devoid of any parochial baggage and performing tradition interpret the music as "pure" music, not "English" music, and this set more than other I can recall demonstrates the benefits as passage after passage unfold with new and challenging insights-not just as "Great English Music" but as "Great Music."
The orchestra does not sound British-the playing style and technique is totally different but neither are there the extremes of braying horns and tinny trumpets that we expect from this orchestra at that period-Rozhdestvensky does a better job in taming this tendency than Svetlanov usually managed.

The differences between this and other sets are in mood, balance and tempo.
The first two symphonies are the most conventionally approached, with a fine choir singing reputedly in English (I am being unfair-it is pretty good) under Valery Polyansky's Choirmaster Direction, though the London Symphony blazes with drive energy and energy, worlds away from the dull threnody that Haitink or Bryden Thomson give us, the Pastoral is redolent of Prokofiev in elegiac mood, the Sixth takes place in smoked filled Soviet Beer Halls of the 1930s when Socialist Idealism was still a possibility with a wonderful jazzy Russian Saxophone until it is snuffed out in a chilling fourth movement which defies the conventions by increasing in volume in a mood reminiscent of the finale of Shostakovich 4.
The Seventh is superb-a genuine symphonic interpretation as supposed to a film score, with some exotic xylophone playing sounding uncommonly like a Gamelan band and giving an exotic Eastern flavour, and a very realistically balanced organ in Landscapes, though the organist hits a gloriously discordant handful of wrong notes, and a with wonderfully atmospheric soprano.

I have left the Fourth to be grouped with Eight and Nine, for to my ears these three performances are imbued with true greatness rising even above the excellence of the other recorded works, and are arguably the finest available.
The mood of the Fourth is angry and Nihilistic-the great soaring melody in the opening movement is searing with anguish, the second buzzes with foreboding, the third is full of bitter irony and the finale, taken at a slower lope than usual and with an aggressive tuba providing a demonic "oompah" in a movement that is devoid of the cod jollity we associate with it becomes a very disturbing work indeed.
The Eighth reveals again the influence of Shostakovich-the jagged scherzo could easily be mistaken for a movement by DSCH-and others detect references to Prokofiev which could be the case.
The Ninth has always been looked upon as a work by a composer whose powers were failing by "the critical consensus."
Let me assure you that in this performance it is transformed into work of power, acerbity, anger, disillusion and resignation-with more than a sprinkling of ironic humour thrown in.
Until this recording, performances by Haitink, Previn, Thomson, Davies and Handley have disappointed, and it has been to the venerable 1968 Boult LSO recording on Everest that I have returned but I am transfixed by this recording and at last it has found its great interpretation.

RVW was of course a lifelong Socialist, though despite his being an avowed Atheist his Socialism was very much in the Wesleyan Tradition, and he was never a Marxist, nor an apologist for the Soviet Union.
Whether this underlying spark has some special resonance with these Russian then Soviet Artists I cannot say, but as the symphonies unfold there is to my ears a developing similarity to the mood of so many of the works of Shostakovich, and indeed ever more references to his musical idiom.

I would have to nominate this as my favourite set of these great symphonies, despite the sporadic excellence of sets by the conductors I have already mentioned, particularly the Boult Stereo cycle (the Haitink and Thomson have too many longeurs), and the fact that some small allowance has to be made for recording and playing, and as it is available at modest cost, I would urge the committed and the curious not to hesitate. This has revivified my love for these great works in a totally unexpected way.
Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Russian take on Vaughan Williams, 29 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
Very good interpretations of works that could not have been inn their blood stream. But then Rozhdesvensky is a world class conductor. The sound is mostly perfectly acceptable and there is some excellent playing by the orchestra. Only the 1st symphony- the Sea Symphony is a little incongruous due, not to the interpretation, but to the choir and soloist's use of the English language. Well worth while just to hear non natives perform Vaughan William's wonderfull music.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally absorbing, 28 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
The conducting and playing here are so exciting - and I totally agree with the other four and five star reviews. I think that the weakest performance, mainly owing to the recording, is the Sea Symphony - for example the tuba player is given a 'solo' role! But don't let that put you off. This set is fascinating and thrilling.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams melodic gift, often transforms the local into the universal., 6 Jun. 2014
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Ultrarunner (Perth-West Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] (Audio CD)
Art that delves into a world unseen, known to our psyche as timeless is rare. For then the local becomes universal and speaks to humanity. For example, Shakespeare, whose work has been turned into opera by Berlioz, Romeo and Juliet, Verdi's Macbeth, Othello and Falstaff. Or Kurosawa's film Ran, which retells King Lear, magically mixed with Japanese history and Wagner's Ring Cycle and so on. Thus, Vaughan Williams is one of these composers of whom this can also be said. His music is stated to be very English, but the often mystical voice speaks to all who have the time to listen.

Naturally, this Russian boxed set of all Vaughan Williams symphonies does not surprise me. They would make sense to that country. We listen to Haitink conducting Shostakovich's symphonies and applaud him. Bernstein and Toscanini are renowned for their conducting of the Leningrad symphony. We do not say, only a Russian can conduct this music. Only they can understand this great composer,for its much a part of that country and Stalin. Yet these symphonies of Shostakovich speak to us as human beings. Vaughan Williams said "Art, like charity, should begin at home. It is because Palestrina and Verdi are essentially Italian and because Bach, Beethoven and Wagner are essentially German that their message transcends their frontiers. The greatest artist inevitably belongs to his country as much as the humblest singer in a remote village."

However, I listened to a mixture of Boult and Handley's versions of these symphonies, and excellent they are. Did you know that Nikisch who was Furtwangler's only role model, was a mentor of Boult, and he in turn was Handley's. Boult conducted a number of premieres of Vaughan Williams symphonies and knew the composer very well. So how do the live recordings of the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR Ministry of Culture conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, compare with the Boult and Handley recordings. Well, the reason I bought the set was because of Rozhdestvensky's reputation as a great conductor and having conducted the BBC orchestra. They were recorded from 1988-1989 in the Grand hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic Society. They give you a different approach and insight into these great symphonies. Emotional, mystical and yes they capture the essential Englishness; also the orchestra loves the contrasts between the 2nd and 4th,symphony. The last movement is extremely swift and tense. The Lento of the 2nd is painfully beautiful, so is the 3rd. Overall, the Russian orchestra does well, which may surprise the reader, but adds to my understanding of Vaughan Williams.

This Russian conductor understands British music He has recorded some of Tavener's works with a English orchestra. About Howell's Missa Sabrinensis, LSO, the Gramophone 2002 year book of Classical music states "The dominant impression of the performance is Rozhdestvensky's full blooded communication of the rich emotional content impulsively pointing-up the extremes,and the fragrant lyrical pastures".

I just love the 2nd 3rd, 5th and 6th my favourites in this box set. The Russians have a ball with the 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th. The 1st is played well, but the English does not come through clearly, maybe the orchestra is too loud. I should imagine some Italians say that about some British and American singers. A pity for it is so emotional. I did listen to the famous 1954 version of the sea symphony with the London Philharmonic conducted by Boult, with Baillie and Cameron. You could hear every word. One weakness amongest 9 symphonies is quite good. Having written that,I did like it.

The ideas about the music of the 3rd symphony were mainly formed during the 1st world war, which affected the composer badly. The Pastoral symphony written in 1921, is a personal Requiem to the dead soldiers and a prayer for them. The trumpet in the 2nd movement is heartbreaking. The female voice in the 4th Movement is mourning for the dead. I thought I would mention this, for we are commentrating this year 2014, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the 1st world war. The music is not about fields and cows. The irony in the title Pastoral says volumes. This work was premiered in 1922 and conducted by Boult. I love this Russian version of the 3rd. Tempi can be swift when required. His 6th is seen by the booklet as realizing the despair of a Man. The symphony also tells of the evil of war. The energy unleased by the orchestra is unbelievable.WOW! The last movement is plain eerie. A prayer.

Did you know Holst and Vaughan Williams were friendly for 40 years until Holst died in 1934. They sought each other's criticism while composing their music. Holst attached great importance to V W's aesthetic approval; V W had an equal trust in Holst's relentless ear. He accepted virtually no honours from the establishment of the day. He was happiest in his work with Surrey village choirs and prefered to be known as plain Mr. In a letter to Holst's wife on his death he wrote " everything seems to have turned back to him-what would Gustav think or advise or do". If you listen carefully to the symphonies, occasionally Holst's musical influences subtly pops up.

Holst is known by the Planets, where he had found his own voice. Prior to that in 1905 he became interested in Indian philosophy. Hence his opera Savitri, recorded on Decca with Janet Baker with the third group of Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda. Though Imogen Holst writes that "he had learnt Sanskrit so he was able to read the original Hymns from the Rig Veda,then write his own versions of the Hymns. The Bhagavad Gita made a lasting impression on Holst. The book taught him not to worry about success or otherwise". But according to Ottaway,"Vaughan Williams was never a professing Christian, although the fifth and sixth Symphonies are like the music of a visionary, a seer. In his quest for an ecstatic realization of universal truths-of Whitman's 'vast similitude' which interlocks all'- Vaughan Williams was a religious artist, but his quest was directed to human experience". Facts like this can help us understand why we feel the way we do, when we listen to certain composers music.

The sound of the CDs are good for live recordings. I am not sure whether it is DDD or just plain stereo. But through my earphones I can hear every note. A few coughs. Not many, probably frightened of the KGB, now all living in Putin's Russia. You can tell Rozhdestvensky understands and loves the symphonies. I throughly recommend this set.

There is a cardboard box with a lid, on the back in English, the disc numbers and symphony in black on a Khaki background. Published 2013. The CD sleeves have leaves on the front, black, dark green,light olive green and the rest dark brown. On the back in English, Disc and track number, with movements in black on a Khaki background. Use the lid to put in the CDs you wish to play. Booklet in English, French and Russian. A article, "Symphonies". The 6 CD's have a red label and black to make the CD's look like an LP. On the red label in white letters is the composers name and the symphony and disc number. I must mention that I own the Shostakovich 11 CD box set. Moscow Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Kondrashin. The same firm produced this Vaughan Williams set.

References: Holst,I. Holst.1972. Novello. Mordden, E. A guide to Classical Music,1980. Oxford University Press. Ottaway, H. Vaughan Williams.1966. Novello.
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Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170]
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies [Valery Polyansky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Boris Abalian] [Melodiya: MELCD 1002170] by Elena Dof-Donskaya; The USSR State Chamber Choir; The State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR Ministry of Culture; Tatiana Smoryakova; Boris Vasiliev; The Choir of the Leningrad Music Society; The Choir of the Rimsky-Korsakov Music College (Audio CD - 2014)
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