Vaughan Williams: The Complete Symphonies, The Lark Ascending, Tallis Fantasia, etc. Box set
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Top Customer Reviews
In many ways this has to be the best recommendation for a complete symphonic package and it is good to hear the way these works developed as responses to the turbulent times in which they were created. The first and second symphonies stand very much as artistic statements in their own right - but 3,4,5 and 6 benefit immensely from being heard together, as RVW developed a unique style that is instantly recognisable, but which can also surprise you with its unexpected bursts of intense emotion and these performances really capture that intensity.
Sinfonia Antartica stands alone again, but this is an extraordinary performance - defintely my favourite version. The last two symphonies are again unusual and unexpected - having some of the characteristics of earlier works, but with unusual structures and instrumentation. It's nice to have the other symphonic works and these are all popular and well-known, enhancing the whole package.
I have heard other versions and particularly like Bryden Thomson's cycle on Chandos which feels very different - but this one is certainly up there with the very best in terms of sound quality and performances - highly recommended!
An all digital offering, started in the late '80s and concluded roundabout the millennium. Why not start at the end, with sublime readings of the tintinnabulating 8th and the visionary Hardyesque 9th. A little further back and Haitink is fully attuned to the offbeat appeal of Antarctica and the apocalyptic 6th Symphony; the 5th is given a more earthy and grieving account than the usual rarified soundings, and like the 6th the 4th is a wonderfully potent impression of Beethoven in the world of Shostakovich. Haitink coaxes all the substance out of RVW's Pastoral inspiration and gives London its multinational head (No.2). The Sea Symphony remains my least favourite but no-one has ever disputed the qualities of this recording.
Alongside the biggies, enjoy ace renditions of Norfolk Rhapsody, Wenlock Edge and wholly professional takes of Tallis and Lark Ascending. Amongst the digital cycles you could not do better and the analogue generation scarcely had more authority. Wholly recommendable.
The Society has only two articles of faith.
1) Vaughan Williams is a greater composer than Mozart.
2) Mozart is not as great a composer as Vaughan Williams.
Membership of the society is not large (one), but we make up for this by KNOWING THAT WE ARE RIGHT.
David Hurwitz wanted to become a member, but the society as a whole (me) wouldn't let him join.
The reason we wouldn't let him join was his review of Bernard Haitink's complete survey of the greatest symphonic cycle outside of Beethoven's.
Hurwitz accuses this music making of being "unidiomatic". I have no idea which idiom it is that Haitink and the LPO are beyond the bounds of but I can tell you this...
I have owned this set for years in its previous yellow box incarnation. I also own Boult's stereo cycle, Previn's LSO cycle and several other recordings variously by Barbirolli, Hickox, Berglund, Handley, Andrew Davies and others.
I can only think of two or three other performances of ANY of these noble works which outshine those in this box. They would be Hickox (Virgin) in the Sea Symphony - he has more spring in his step which helps at times, Previn (LSO - RCA) in the London (amazing swagger in the first movement) and Barbirolli (EMI) in the fifth - who is simply unmissable, heartfelt, heart-breaking and tender. But even in these three symphonies Haitink is very fine. I certainly cannot imagine the big, grand sections of the Sea Symphony bigger or grander. The Second is noble powerful, the Fifth superbly paced and - well - just beautiful. Numbers 3,4,6,7,8,9 receive sublime performances - the Pastoral in particular is the most beautiful and the finest version I know, very moving.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely one of the great Vaughan Williams symphony sets. Consistently good performances, with several that have to be ranked at or near the top. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Long-Time Listener
Superb performances and bargain price. Boult has many insights but Haitink is the best all round recommendationPublished 7 months ago by Robert Hutley
A great value, indeed and I completely share other reviewers' opinion here. The only (minor) disappointment is the included booklet: you only get one (very short) essay about RVW's... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Azol
A must for any serious classical music enthusiast. Beautifully remastered and does not fail to please. If you only ever buy one Ralph Vaughan Williams box set this is the one!Published 10 months ago by Stephen Harper
About 25 years ago, Gramophone Magazine thought very highly of BH's recording of the Sea Symphony. I bought it and at that time I owned some very big speakers with a Cyrus... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Anthony S Jones