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Revelatory and thrilling performances of the original in excellent sound,
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This review is from: Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony (original version) (Audio CD)
This disc, particularly well recorded in 2000, brings to our attention the original 1913 version of this much loved symphony. Like many other composers, Vaughan Williams was beset by doubts concerning the content and length of his creation and made three more revised versions in 1918, 1920 and finally in 1933. It is the 1933 version that is his final approved version and the 1913 version recorded here has not been approved for general publication.
During the course of the revisions the composer reduced the length, recomposing as he progressed, and finally producing the tighter and more symphonic structure that we know today. However, many of his friends regretted much of this revision feeling that much imaginative and valuable musical material was lost and that the balance of the final work had been altered. This recording enables those outside the composer's range of close friends to listen and judge for themselves.
The first movement remains untouched. There are changes in each of the other three movements especially in the way the last two movements end and also in much of the remaining content of the last movement. It is quite easy to hear that the symphony has been made to change its course as a result of the revisions and that it really is not the same as originally intended. The issue as to which is 'best' is not relevant in so far as the 1913 version is only available as this recorded version and will not be made available as a concert event. In effect, regardless of comparison preferences, this disc must remain something of an academic exercise in terms of the practicalities of future performance.
Fortunately this new disc is of the very highest quality with obviously committed conducting and playing by the orchestral members both collectively and individually. The recorded sound is exemplary. Comparisons with other recordings simply cannot be made and any attempt at such comments must be, by definition, irrelevant.
I would suggest that this truly unique recorded document is of tremendous importance to musical historians and to anyone who has the slightest interest in this second symphony by Vaughan Williams. As such, it can only have the highest possible recommendation.