With this celebratory release completing his fourteen-year tenure as Music Director of the TSO, Peter Oundjian conducts an exquisite Vaughan Williams programme, supported by an all-Canadian cast of star soloists. In the program notes of the concert preceding the recording, Oundjian declared: “Ralph Vaughan Williams was possibly England’s most significant composer, and he is a personal favorite of mine. This [recording] presents some of his finest works, featuring soloists from the Orchestra as well as some of Canada’s most notable solo artists, and the Elmer Iseler Singers. The lyrical and engaging Oboe Concerto is rarely heard, but it is one of his most inspired works. Serenade to Music showcases his exquisite vocal writing, which alsoRead more figures prominently in the ravishingly beautiful Flos Campi, so surprisingly scored for solo viola, choir, and chamber orchestra. The Piano Concerto is more dramatic, with a juggernaut opening and a brilliant fugal finale.”
The Chandos catalogue already boasts a superb performance of the Piano Concerto by Howard Shelley, coupled with the Ninth Symphony in Bryden Thompson’s rather forgotten yet quite brilliant series. Canadian pianist Louis Lortie is outstanding in this new performance.
Listeners should pay keen attention to this beautiful performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal oboe, Sarah Jeffrey. She is absolutely in sympathy with the music, producing a most pleasing tone, and is in complete command of the work’s technical demands.
Serenade to Music was originally composed for sixteen solo voices. The composer conceived the work for particular singers whose solo passages are marked with their initials in the score, but he was always keen to adapt works in order to secure performances. This performance uses just four soloists alongside the admirable Elmer Iseler Singers, a group of twenty or so voices. Thus, the soprano, for example, sings solo passages that were originally assigned to four different singers and, no doubt, tailored to each particular voice. I expected to miss the change of vocal quality from one phrase to another, but in the end this didn’t bother me at all, perhaps because the soloists are so distinguished. Peter Oundjian’s pacing of the work is ideal, and the sounds he coaxes from his excellent orchestra are as ravishing as they should be in this work.
Teng Li is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal viola player, and she plays Flos Campi as if it really means something to her. She produces a rich, nourished tone and plays the more robust passages without the slightest suggestion of roughness. Her viola really speaks, her playing richly communicative. The choir is excellent, the orchestra too, and by careful attention to Vaughan Williams’s markings, Oundjian achieves something very special.
Peter Oundjian’s work in Toronto was marked by a number of recordings of Vaughan Williams symphonies on the orchestra’s own label. Here, on Chandos, he treats us to a mouth-watering programme that more than deserves a place in any Vaughan Williams collection.
– MusicWeb International
The solo playing by Toronto Symphony principal Teng Li offers deep weight of tone, rapturous phrasing, and a musical personality that mesmerises the ear; the choral singing is superbly focused and (easier said than done) flawlessly in tune, with a classy orchestral accompaniment to match. Sarah Jeffrey (also a Toronto principal) is at first less impressive in the Oboe Concerto, her playing increasingly searches out the music’s poignant heart, memorably so in the finale.
Serenade to musicby Ralph Vaughan Williams Performer:
Tyler Duncan (Baritone),
Lawrence Wiliford (Tenor),
Emily D'angelo (Mezzo Soprano),
Carla Huhtanen (Soprano)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra,
Elmer Iseler Singers
Period: 20th Century Written: 1938; England
Concerto for Oboe in A minorby Ralph Vaughan Williams Performer:
Sarah Jeffrey (Oboe)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1944; England
Flos campiby Ralph Vaughan Williams Performer:
Teng Li (Viola)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra,
Elmer Iseler Singers
Period: 20th Century Written: 1925; England
Concerto for Piano in C majorby Ralph Vaughan Williams Performer:
Louis Lortie (Piano)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1926-1931; England
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
A New work for me.November 13, 2018By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"This is my first experience with this concerto. As Vaughan-Williams is one of my favorite composers I looked forward to it with great enthusiasm. It is a mixed bag of styles but very powerful in its impact. There are some heavy duty rhythmic and percussive effects with the piano that can take the listener by surprise if you only know VWs more gentle or pastoral side. The performance by Louis Lortie is first rate. I am so glad to have found this work and will enjoy getting more familiar with it on successive listenings. The other works on the recording are wonderfully done and more familiar to me but worth having again on this recording with other performers. A particular favorite is the Serenade to Music."Report Abuse
The Dominion strikes backJune 3, 2018By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"The world of Ralph Vaughan Williams seems still to be overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, British. The vast majority of recordings today hail from the British Isles, with very few from major American or Continental orchestras or conductors, much less those farther afield. The English Pastoral tradition, the music of the Tudors and the Anglican choral tradition, and the whole range of folk music of the British Isles, come together to build the engine that drives Vaughan Williams' reputation. Those of us who love Vaughan Williams, and I'm sure there are as many today around the world as there ever were, look to the English record companies to keep new albums coming in the Vaughan Williams pipeline. Chandos in particular has a very deep and broad VW catalogue. It's great to see this superb new disc, to be released on June 1, 2018, coming from Toronto, played and sung by Canadian musicians, and one of the top Vaughan Williams discs in recent memory. Toronto-born conductor Peter Oundjian, who will become the Toronto Symphony's Conductor Emeritus at the end of the current season, has put together a programme that shows off some of Vaughan Williams' many strengths. After 15 years with the orchestra, he has everything moving at the highest level, like clockwork, from strings to winds to brass and percussion. Two principals from the orchestra, oboist Sarah Jeffrey and violist Teng Li, provide star-soloist level work in the profoundly hopeful Oboe Concerto from 1944 and the sensuous, mystical Flos Campi from the mid-1920s. The latter work features one of the world's great choirs, the Elmer Iseler Singers, a Toronto fixture for nearly 40 years. The choir, along with a strong quartet of solo singers, also elevates the Serenade to Music, from 1938. This is a tour de force of orchestral, choral and solo vocal music, one of the composer's greatest works. The Toronto musicians come together here to provide the most impressive version I've heard on disc. The French-Canadian soloist Louis Lortie, whose own Chandos discography is also distinguished in both depth and breadth, has the virtuoso technique to handle the uncharacteristically hard-edged, blunt piano writing in the Piano Concerto, from 1932. This is a sparkling, brightly lit performance, accompanied by the same controlled fireworks from the orchestra. Both soloist and orchestra are meltingly romantic, of course, in the middle movement Romanza. More top-level Vaughan Williams! This is a well-filled CD, but unfortunately there isn't room for two works that opened (Fantasia on Greensleeves) and closed (Wasps Overture) the two November 2017 concerts at Roy Thomson Hall recorded for this album. Perhaps Chandos or the TSO could provide one or both as audio or video bonuses on their websites. Fingers crossed!"Report Abuse