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Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 5, Serenade To Music, Etc / Sargent, London So

Release Date: 07/22/2008 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 16151   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Marjorie ThomasDuncan RobertsonElsie MorisonTrevor Anthony
Conductor:  Sir John BarbirolliSir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Sargent has had a poor press. Self-preening was not exactly unheard of amongst conductors. Heaven knows what would have happened to him if he had been lauded as much as Karajan. His arrogant attitude to orchestral players as disposable drones cannot have helped his reputation as it trails into a more egalitarian age. What about his music-making? You do not have to be a nice human being to be a great or even fine conductor. The recent BBC Legends disc of Proms performances of the fourth symphonies by Vaughan Williams and Sibelius suggests we should not rush to condemn. His UK premiere of Martin?'s Epic of Gilgamesh
Read more impresses for its humanity and visionary nature. There is also a real internal light in his broadcast of Alwyn's Lyra Angelica with Sidonie Goossens as the harp soloist. The four Vaughan Williams works here are familiar from the 87p Classics for Pleasure LP and then the Music for Pleasure special which seemed to be everywhere in the 1970s. He delivers a dapper and slightly stiff-necked Wasps Overture but his Serenade to Music is much more pliant even if this is the version for four soloists and chorus rather than for sixteen soloists. Lyndon Jenkins tells us that this was in fact the composer's preferred option. In Sargent's hands it is a poetic salley so if you came to know the work through this disc you would do no disservice to the piece. Much the same can be said of the poetic and romantic-plush Greensleeves Fantasia which proceeds at a honey-oozing pulse. Some may find it overly romanticised. Toward the Unknown Region has a lot going for it and as far as I can recall has never sounded as good before. It was recorded a couple of years before his powerful Martin? Gilgamesh broadcast and shows the same visionary qualities around the Whitman text. Its real strength is the choir who have been drilled to burnished perfection. Their diction is admirable - in fact this is the best recorded version.

We then leave Sargent and move to the classic and much reissued Fifth Symphony conducted by Barbirolli. It is his second recording of the work. He had gone into the studio with the Hallé in 1942 only seven months after the composer's premiere. This is one of the finest interpretations in the catalogue, brisk yet deeply spiritual. The sessions also marked Barbir olli's return to EMI after seven years with Pye. He wrote to the composer in 1954 after conducting the Fifth at Salisbury Cathedral: "What a heavenly work it is ... sometimes I think the loveliest of them all".

The words to the Serenade and Toward the Unknown Region are printed in the booklet.

These recordings are between 50 and 45 years old and their analogue origins are evident from the low and even hiss.

Sargent's intriguing Vaughan Williams aired at last with Barbirolli for company.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1943; England 
Serenade to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Marjorie Thomas (Alto), Duncan Robertson (Tenor), Elsie Morison (Soprano),
Trevor Anthony (Bass)
Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; England 
Toward the unknown region by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1906; England 
The wasps: Overture by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; England 

Sound Samples

The Wasps - Aristophanic Suite (1990 - Remaster): Overture
Serenade to Music (version for four soloists & chorus): Serenade to Music
Fantasia on 'Greensleeves'
Toward the Unknown Region
Symphony No. 5 in D (1994 - Remaster): I. Preludio (Moderato - Allegro - Tempo I)
Symphony No. 5 in D (1994 - Remaster): II. Scherzo (Presto misterioso)
Symphony No. 5 in D (1994 - Remaster): III. Romanza (Lento)
Symphony No. 5 in D (1994 - Remaster): IV. Passacaglia (Moderato - Allegro - Tempo promo - Tempo del Preludio)

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