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Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 7 Sinfonia Antartica

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Bernard Haitink
  • Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Audio CD (13 Oct. 1986)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000005GHU
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,425 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

Audio CD

Customer Reviews

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This is a superb recording of RVW's eerie Sinfonia Antartica, beautifully played by the London Philharmonic and sensitively engineered by EMI with an ideal distance given to the ladies' voices.

However, the disc is far from generous with only forty minutes of music and costs only slightly less than the complete boxed set of Haitink's RVW cycle. If you only need or want this one symphony then this is as good an account as you could ever hope for. For anyone else, financial sense seems to suggest that the full set is a much better recommendation these days [ Vaughan Williams - Complete Symphonies ].
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Format: Audio CD
Whatever its idiosyncrasies might have been, the British Empire produced a crop of extraordinary individuals and three of the most intrepid were Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and George Mallory - men who were willing to parry oblivion `because it's there'. Vaughan Williams' Seventh Symphony could serve as a cenotaph for the triumvirate.

Armchair explorers take note: this performance of the Sinfonia Antarctica is a great success. Above all, it conveys immensity, heroism and peril. The First Movement in particular is hair-raising, as if one is trying to surmount the Second Step on Everest in the failing light. The London Philharmonic plays fierily. Sheila Armstrong and the Choir of the London Philharmonic are evocative in their wordless melismas. While it is a pity that no-one declaims the various superscriptions which preface each movement, the music-making is vivid enough to convey their meaning. The EMI recording is superlative.

The wind-machine is the one blot on this endeavour - it sounds like a two dollar kazoo from the opp-shop.

While the wider Haitink / RVW cycle has been issued as a bargain box, it is by no means a first choice, compelling as it is. This single issue still holds currency.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc, suitably and finely recorded with depth in 1985, is a very fine rendition of Vaughan Williams' seventh symphony, subtitled Antarctica, reflecting the source of its inspiration. The film depicts Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole and Vaughan Williams was commissioned to write the music. While doing so, he became so engrossed by the subject that he reworked much of the material into his next symphony. The degree of reworking combined with fresh material took the music out of the realm of a film score suite and more properly into a symphonic conception.

The music is highly atmospheric and makes use of a large orchestra, wordless female chorus, wordless solo soprano, organ and wind machine. The core of the work is the central third movement, and within that movement, the massive organ entry representing the enormous blocks of ice. This movement, entitles 'Landscape, is based on a quotation from Coleridge and the subject matter is obviously portrayed musically. Each movement has similar quotations taken from a number of literary sources. These may enhance understanding but the music is sufficiently vivid as to not need such knowledge for comprehension.

Haitink, with his typically sober, level-headed, clear-cut thinking so suitable for Mahler, is here ideally matched to this symphony too. The symphony consequently has great seriousness of purpose, towering strength and sense of direction. The orchestra, well used to performing for him, responds with complete conviction. The engineers balance all the forces involved with remarkably fine judgement to produce a superlative aural result.

I would suggest that this disc stands out in a crowd when it comes to considering this symphony and, as such, is worth serious consideration.
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This version of the Vaughan Williams elegiac yet profoundly conquering symphony captures all the emotion and atmosphere to transport the spirit. I challenge anyone not to be moved by the tension of the music - or is it the ice - or the disagreement of the explorers on the best course of action. The resolution is not clear - but the soul rests.
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