45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Haitink vs Handley: too close to call?,
This review is from: Vaughan Williams: Symphonies (Audio CD)
For a RVW set, though there are several excellent bargains to choose from, choice really comes down to two EMI labelmates: Haitink and Handley. I think the Dutchman may just have the edge on his English rival, although neither will disappoint.
This set began in the late eighties with a magnificent Sinfonia Antartica, then came an equally splendid London Symphony and then a faultless Sea Symphony. The pattern was established.
Everyone has a different idea about which of the nine is RVW's best, so if I say that Haitink might even convince you No8 is in the running, you'll guess at how surprising his performances can be. This and Nos3-4 become expansive, more imposing creations. No5 is less ethereal than it can be, but conveys a genuine feeling of pathos that befits its wartime origins. Nos6 & 9 are beyond praise (especially the latter).
What finally swayed me was (re)hearing Haitink's sublime recording of In The Fen Country on the radio. Given that Handley's recordings are all available individually, I suggest you buy this slimline box and maybe supplement it with Handley's Vaughan Williams: Symphony No.5
The only thing wrong with Haitink's box is the hideous colour scheme, but even that can't prevent it receiving 5 stars.
A landmark issue.