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Vaughan Williams: Serenade To Music, Mystical Songs / Best


Release Date: 10/12/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 30025   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Sarah WalkerElizabeth ConnellCatherine Wyn-RogersJohn Mark Ainsley,   ... 
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraCorydon Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the first modern version of the Serenade to Music which attempts to provide an equivalent to the galaxy of soloists who took part in the very first performance at Sir Henry Wood's Jubilee in 1938, and then together made the first historic recording with Sir Henry, now reissued by Pearl. In character and distinction this easily outshines the only other contender with a named line-up of British soloists, Sir Adrian Boult's recording of 1968, still available on CD as part of EMI's seven-disc collection of Vaughan Williams's choral music. Matthew Best as conductor is not afraid to bring out the sensuous warmth of this setting of the famous speech from the garden scene in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and the recording, clean on Read more detail as the orchestral introduction makes plain, gives satisfying weight and richness to match. Best appreciates that this is Vaughan Williams at his most gutsy, not just evocative, and the result is profoundly moving. On detail I note the silvery sweetness of Amanda Roocroft in the Isobel Baillie solo, ''Of sweet harmony'', the consistency of the four tenors, even greater than those in the original recording, and the outstanding contributions of the two Connells (no relations)—not just Elizabeth Connell in the climactic Eva Turner solo, riding up to a glorious top A, but John Connell, the last and darkest of the basses in the Norman Allin solo.

Thomas Allen, leading that lowest group, is then the characterful, expressive soloist in two of the other works as well, the Five mystical songs and the Fantasia on Christmas carols. In due course this could be the ideal Christmas present, when Allen with his firm, warm tone and breadth of expression brings out the word meaning with new intensity, and Best backs him with strong, virile conducting. I prefer both these performances to the vintage EMI ones from Sir David Willcocks and Barry Rose respectively (both on (CD) CDM7 69872-2), though Rose's Guildford Cathedral version of the Christmas carol Fantasia is the more atmospheric for using trebles instead of sopranos.

As though those three works do not provide riches enough, Hyperion also offer an even longer work, a superb version of Flos campi, with Nobuko Imai as a rich-toned, characterful soloist. This is a performance which stays very much on a chamber scale. I marginally prefer the extra breadth and warmth of Vernon Handley's magical account with the RLPO and Christopher Balmer, which comes as fill-up on EMI Eminence's outstanding recording of the Vaughan Williams Fifth Symphony. Rather to my surprise Balmer is even richer than Imai, whose viola is spotlit in the recording balance, and can therefore hardly sound so sweet. But the Hyperion balance gives one the feeling of the viola as first person, the central character from which this evocation of the Song of Solomon develops and to whom it returns. The closeness and intimacy also give extra bite to the oriental march-music of the fourth section, while Best brings out the links between the closing section and the Serenade to Music, giving the record a satisfying consistency, with warm, immediate sound.'

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [9/1990, reviewing the original release]

Hyperion's unshirking commitment to the English choral genre has been a sound and almost ever present feature in their catalogue and this release sums it all up. Four of RVW's finest works are included here and all are in splendid interpretations. Noboku Imai's playing in 'Flos Campi' is wonderful, to my mind he even eclipses Frederick Riddle's classic account now available on Chandos Collect. The decision to use the 16 soloist setup in Serenade to Music is also laudable, expression of clarity and romantic imagery are greatly enhanced with this choice of singers. I also enjoyed Thomas Allen's brooding 'Five Mystical Songs', interpretations that really do plumb the emotional depths of this work which is one of the finest group of songs that RVW ever wrote. Framing all this richness is the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, a work full of uninhibited zest and vitality. Best and his choral and orchestral forces are indeed to be praised for their sterling efforts and the disc comfortably rises to the top of my Hyperion shopping list!

-- Gerald Fenech, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Serenade to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Sarah Walker (Mezzo Soprano), Elizabeth Connell (Soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Alto),
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Arthur Davies (Tenor), Maldwyn Davies (Tenor),
Martyn Hill (Tenor), Thomas Allen (Baritone), Alan Opie (Baritone),
John Connell (Bass), Gwynne Howell (Bass), Maciej Rakowski (Violin),
Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano), Amanda Roocroft (Soprano), Diana Montague (Mezzo Soprano),
Linda Kitchen (Soprano), Anne Dawson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Language: English 
2.
Mystical Songs (5) by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Thomas Allen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
3.
Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Charles Tunnell (Cello), Thomas Allen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; England 
Language: English 
4.
Flos campi by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Nobuko Imai (Viola)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; England 

Featured Sound Samples

Serenade to Music
Mystical Songs: No 4: The Call

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 sublime December 16, 2013 By k. robertson (london, ON) See All My Reviews "This is truly a wonderful recording,the choir, orchestra and soloists led by Matthew Best are at their finest.Thomas Allen is the perfect choice for Vaughan-Williams and delivers splendid renditions of the mystical songs and Fantasia. However for me the crowning achievement on the disc is the Serenade to Music,this is rapturous singing by the sixteen soloists. I Wholly recommend this disc !" Report Abuse
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