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Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 5, Three Portraits, Tuba Concerto / Previn

Release Date: 01/21/2010 
Label:  Rca   Catalog #: 6782  
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  John Fletcher
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The great inner strength and glories of this music are revealed here by fabulously eloquent playing. This performance of the Fifth Symphony is the pinnacle of Previn’s Vaughan Williams cycle - a major achievement.

The major offering is the seraphic Fifth Symphony. This is a supreme work, packed with thematic references to RVW’s opera (or ‘Morality’ as he called it), Pilgrim’s Progress, which at the time the symphony was written was still very much work in progress.

The long lines of the first movement are most lovingly shaped by Previn. The strings sing and soar marvellously and the horns contribute burnished tone. It seems to me that everything about the account of this movement, pacing, dynamic control
Read more and contrast, and sympathetic playing is just ‘right’. Later, when the tempo picks up the strings are dexterous and light and the interjections of the wind and brass introduce a suitable note of foreboding, which will be familiar to anyone who knows Pilgrim. The brief climax is convincingly built before the return of the luminous material with which the movement began (Track 1, 7’58")

The scherzo is brilliantly poised and gossamer light. This music always seems to me to be suggestive of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s certainly the case here. Then comes the glorious Romanza. A featherbed of hushed strings is the foundation for the beautiful melody, heard first on the cor anglais. In Pilgrim’s Progress (Act 1, scene 2) this theme movingly sets the words "He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death", sung by Pilgrim himself. This movement is, surely, one of the most moving creations in English music and Previn and the LSO do it full justice. The music, though beautiful, also has great inner strength and its glories are revealed here by some fabulously eloquent playing. If the performance of this symphony is a highlight of Previn’s cycle (which I believe it is) then the performance of this slow movement must be counted the pinnacle of the entire set. Here is just over twelve minutes of balm for the soul. Then the quietly radiant finale is a delight. This is RVW at his most outgoing and beneficent. The whole performance is a major achievement.

The Three Portraits from "The England of Elizabeth" consist of music extracted by Muir Matheson from a score that RVW had been invited to compose in 1955 by British Transport Films. The company had produced a short documentary about [16th century] Elizabethan England in order to promote tourism in Shakespeare country. Matheson’s three movement suite doesn’t contain vintage Vaughan Williams but it’s enjoyable and so far as I know there is no other recording.

The Tuba Concerto is a delightful piece, even if it too is not top-drawer RVW. As the notes point out the composer took a good deal of trouble to learn the capabilities of the tuba which he then exploited to the full. John Fletcher is a splendid soloist. He’s athletic in the outer movements and in the central Romanza he displays a poetic vein to the tuba which may surprise some listeners.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in D major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1943; England 
The England of Elizabeth by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
Concerto for Tuba in F minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  John Fletcher (Tuba)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; England 

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