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Customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
Vaughan Williams: Hodie / Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£8.19+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 28 December 2014
Being a lover of Vaughan Williams's music and near to Christmas time I was interested to try his Cantata, Hodie: Fantasia On Christmas Carols. I do like some of his other choral music such as his wonderful Sea Symphony and dramatic Flos Campi for Orchestra and Choir. I wasn't disappointed and this is a powerful and moving recording of Hodie, with strong singing by the three soloists (Soprano, Tenor and Baritone) and Choirs, especially the boys' Choir that sings the narration for the Cantata. Hilary Davan Wetton is the conductor and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provides a fine cushion of sound in this quality NAXOS recording made in 2007.
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on 16 December 2017
This is Vaughan Williams's last large scale choral work, first performed at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival in 1954. It lasts about 50 minutes and the structure consists of a series of numbers (songs, chorals, hymns etc.) separated by linking narrations. The latter are sung by a children's chorus with organ accompaniment. After the first narration, there is a melismatic section for tenor solo, setting the angel's words to Joseph concerning the immaculate conception. This builds to a powerful declamation with full orchestra, in the composer's visionary vein, ending "He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest; Emmanuel, God with us" - a spine tingling moment. This simple sequence, with or without the tenor solo, repeats to the end of the work.

The style has been criticised for being inconsistent, mixing early, lyrical music (It was the winter wild) with his later, rather harsher style associated with the Sinfonia Antarctica (Bright portal of the sky; The March of the Three Kings). In my opinion, this adds to the variety in what is essentially a joyous celebration of Christmas in which he uses the full range of creative modes discovered over half a century.

The performances and recording are first rate, set in a spacious acoustic. The main rivals are the original recording made by Sir David Willocks with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1965, re-released in 2001; and the one by Richard Hickox, again with the LSO. The Hickox version is only available as part of a double CD which includes Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony (1990). All the versions are good but the recording under review is probably the first recommendation, taking into account recording quality and price.

There is also a fine recording of the popular Fantasia on Christmas Carols.
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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2007
This is a great CD. I had always thought that Hodie, despite great moments of inspiration (such as the marvellously inspiriting conclusion)was a rather inferior score to earlier choral scores like Sancta Civitas and Dona Nobis Pacem, but Hilary Davan Wetton's new Naxos (super-budget) version has forced me to revise my earlier view. I still believe that the beautiful Sancta Civitas is Vaughan Williams's choral masterpiece ( although Dona Nobis Pacem and the late, neglected Epithalamion are, respectively, works of great power and beauty) but Hodie comes across as a much greater score in this recording. The main reason for this, I think, is because the conductor takes many crucial sections at a considerably slower tempo than David Willcocks in his fine EMI recording (although the overall timings are very similar) or Richard Hickox in his disappointing later recording (also EMI). Wetton thus invests the score with greater power and dignity. The whole work hangs together much more effectively here than in either earlier recording (although I would not want to be without the Willcocks version, especially for the unsurpassed conclusion "Ring out, ye crystal spheres": one of the best moments in all Vaughan Williams).

Another advantage here is the recording (made at Cadogan Hall, London). It is much clearer than the Willcocks or Hickox versions, with the organ making a much more audible contribution. Janice Watson, Peter Hoare and Stephen Gadd are outstanding soloists and all credit to the Guildford Choral Society and RPO and their conductor. Paradoxically, the performance of Fantasia on Christmas Carols is, perhaps, not as effective as the Barry Rose version coupled with the Willcocks recording of Hodie and Naxos don't provide any texts (unlike EMI with the Willcocks recording), which is a drawback, although they are available online.

In conclusion, this is a great CD, especially as it is so inexpensive. In this performance, my attention was gripped throughout and any longeurs were much less apparent. Hodie contains some great music (the setting of Hardy's "The Oxen" for example) and is a remarkably inspiriting and life-affirming celebration of Christmas from the octogenarian composer.

Don't hesitate!
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on 3 January 2016
I suppose RVW, who was already over 80 when he wrote this, was ambitiously going for a modern-day Messiah. In the event it just isn't very good, as if he was trying to make up with noise what he by then lacked in creative energy. Periods of pointless racket alternate with flaccid quietude, and there's far too much sturm und drang (a lot of it reminiscent of Job: a Masque For Dancing) to allow any Christmas feeling in. I forced myself through a couple of listens, but my finger was itching for the 'stop' button pretty much throughout.

As for the Fantasia, it's like Carry On music.
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on 9 November 2016
Beautiful performances and wonderful Phil Rowlands sound creating deep ambience in a concert hall more akin to a cathedral - yet clear as a bell so that not having the texts in the jewel case is not much of a problem. Just download them from Naxos' site. This music is like having the King's Lessons & Carols without the slight pomposity. VW wrote for the people.
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on 14 January 2013
Decided to buy this based on other reviews. I was not disappointed neither by the piece itself nor the quality of teh recording.
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on 24 November 2012
First time hearing this album and music. Very nice and seasonal. I would recommend this recording if you like VW.
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on 5 December 2011
Bought for choral rehearsal and is a great help to us.
This particular recording of Vaughan Williams is ideal and the performers are an inspiration.
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