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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphonies / Rozhdestvensky, USSR Ministry of Culture Orchestra

Rozhdestvensky
Release Date: 06/10/2014 
Label:  Melodiya   Catalog #: 2170   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 "A sea symphony" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1909; England 
2.
Symphony no 2 "London" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913/1920; England 
3.
Symphony no 3 "Pastoral" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; England 
4.
Symphony no 4 in F minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1934; England 
5.
Symphony no 5 in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1943; England 
6.
Symphony no 6 in E minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944-1947; England 
7.
Symphony no 7 "Sinfonia antartica" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949-1952; England 
8.
Symphony no 8 in D minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
9.
Symphony no 9 in E minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956-1957; England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Vaughn Williams Symphonies as heard through Russi August 18, 2014 By ben cutler (somerville, NJ) See All My Reviews "Now here is something to conjure up, a Russian Conductor conducting a Russian Orchestra in these wonderful, provocative works. What is at stake here is whether or not Vaughn Williams is truly a master composer of international repute, or only a superb British composer. What new facets of Vaughn Williams’ art does the very creatively individual ear of Rozhdestvensky reveal for us. This is important because great music works under many points of view, and so far the many performances of these symphonies have not wandered far apart interpretively speaking. The answer, in the early symphonies, is not much. There are some differences in the feel of orchestral texture showing up mostly because the Russian winds are pure, but unrefined. Even the enigmatic 3rd symphony hews pretty closely to a standard interpretation. With the 4th symphony some real differences start appearing. The first movement is taken at a noticeably slower tempo which results in more detail in the inner lines becoming hearable. But we lose some of the sweep of the music. The poignant quiet coda is now a little less poignant but it is warmer, not burned out. The second movement is taken at a quicker speed. It never sounds rushed but there is a more apparent feel of implacable inevitability. We also must remember that Vaughn Williams own performance is faster than anyone else. The 5th symphony flows very well at the new norm time of about 41 minutes. But it is here, finally, that you realize that although Rozhdestvensky knows and loves this music, the orchestra, in terms of their understanding of Vaughn Williams’ very unique sound and logic, is floundering. Oh they play the notes beautifully, as good as any other orchestra. They just don’t comprehend what they are playing. About 2 minutes before the end of the symphony they are playing the notes perfectly but you feel that they have lost their way. Fortunately when the massed, beautiful strings start climbing heavenward becoming more radiant with each step the orchestra “gets it” and the symphony ends gloriously. There is a real demarcation between this symphony and the last four which rely on counterpoint that has become quite free, often dissonant. Not only is it dissonant but different lines within the same passage are in different rhythms and only occasionally do they come together. Now we in the West tend to accept this in Vaughn Williams because most of the lines that are handled in such free fashion have melodic content that is never far from English folk song and we can accept it as such, even when it is in bare two part counterpoint rather than the usual 3 or 4 parts. Now while the orchestra plays this perfectly they clearly are uncomfortable. Rozhdestvensky, on the other hand thrives on this disorganization as anyone familiar with his performances of the early Shostakovich symphonies knows well. Never less than interesting, sometimes these performances reveal moments of surprising beauty. One passage I remember is a passage in the Romanza of the 8th where a solo cello and tutti violins have a lyric passage together. Rozhdestvensky makes the cello prominent rather than equal and finds unique music in this passage. I will now have to go back to my “reliable” performances to find out whether it is also there, or merely treated equally. These performances also reveal more clearly than ever the many passages in impressionistic textures which, in Vaughn Williams’ hands never “sound” impressionistic. It is not for nothing that Ravel, who Vaughn Williams studied with for quite some while, calls him “my only student who does not sound like Ravel”. If you are coming new to these works you probably should start with a non-Russian performance, even as good as these performances are. But if you know and love these symphonies you are going to want to hear how they sound in someone else’s ear, and Rozdestvensky is a loving and effective guide. Now, if only we can get an idiomatic French conductor to tackle these works! Some further thoughts on Rozhdestvensky’s Vaughn-Williams and the 3rd and 4th symphonies in particular. First it should be noted that the first two symphonies both run (in their original versions) over an hour. He never did this again. Only the Antarctica runs in every recorded version (Stokowski did it in 37 minutes in Cleveland in 1956) over 40 minutes. The rest are under 40 minutes in most performances. “A Sea Symphony” (#1) followed by “A London Symphony” (#2) is followed by “A Pastoral Symphony” (#3). But the “Pastoral Symphony” is only superficially pastoral. It remains the most mysterious and misunderstood work ever written by Vaughn-Williams and I frankly don’t understand this extremely personal music all that well either. A clue to the meaning of this music can be gleaned from what Ursula Vaughn-Williams says Vaughn-Williams told her. “It’s really wartime music – a great deal of it incubated when I used to go up at night with the ambulance waggon at Ecoivres and we went up a steep hill and there was a wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset – its not really lambkins frisking as most people take for granted”. That and another memory of a bugler practicing in the evening landscape were all Vaughn-Williams said about his months as an ambulance orderly, collecting wounded men from the battlefield to take to a field hospital. So the pastoral expression of literally all four movements is the beautiful Corot landscape. But thousands of men including some who Vaughn-Williams knew personally were dying in this beauty. There is conflict and uncertainty in all of this superficially beautiful music which frequently turns dissonant. This dissonance is a precursor of similar musical expression in Flos Campi and the fourth symphony among others. So it might be argued that this symphony is about the emotional conflict between the simultaneity of beauty and horror. The bugler practicing in the twilight is a major focus of the slow movement. In the fourth movement it is the music of the bugler that returns at its most painful climax as if he is a stand in for all the inhuman effects of war. It seems that Vaughn-Williams, like most survivors of wartime had difficulty expressing the horrors that he knew too well. Eleven plus years later comes the fourth symphony which is as violent as the third is superficially peaceful. The only thing Vaughn-Williams said, at least publicly, is “I don’t know whether I like it or not, but it is what I meant to say.” My belief is that this is a more outspoken reaction still to the “Great War”. The fact that storm clouds of aggression and oppression were gathering in Europe possibly explains “ . . . it is what I meant to say”. Musically, the frequent dissonance that mostly quietly underlies the surface of the “Pastoral” comes out into the open in the Fourth Symphony. This trail of dissonance over 11 or more years reflects Vaughn-Williams own disquiet over the peaceful/violent setting he experienced in France. Or at least that is my belief. It also explains why he could not decide on the tempo for the fourth symphony slow movement and asked Adrian Boult to choose for him. In the fifth symphony, composed during a desparate war for Britain, paradoxically he finds a great deal of peace although the opening motive with its bitonality is almost a mirror of the anguished climax of the Pastoral final movement. Once again I complement Rozhdestvensky and his fine orchestra who play with great presence throughout. I should also complement the concert master whose frequent violin solos are played, not with the chaste simplicity which you might expect for music which is often steeped in folksong, but rather with ravishingly beautiful expression. It may not be what Vaughn-Williams had in mind, but it works wonderfully well." Report Abuse
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