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A fine performance of the Pastoral Symphony
on 1 January 2006
Peter Warlock once disparagingly commented that the Pastoral Symphony reminded him of a cow looking over a gate - a damning verdict for what must be one of Vaughan Williams' finest works, but understandable as this music doesn't immediately reveal its secrets. Even the composer himself remarked that 'the symphony is in four movements, all of them slow'. However, this symphony is actually one of the composer's most intense utterances - a work that is now recognised as being a elegy for the First World War. Vaughan Williams was on active service in France during World War One and said that the local countryside provided the initial inspiration for this symphony.
Kees Bakels delivers one of the finest interpretations of this work, comparable to Previn's RCA recording from the 1960's. The wonderful Sixth Symphony is also performed superbly by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
If you want a budget recording of these symphonies, this should definitely be your first choice. However, I also believe that this recording is superior to many full price versions.