This 1993 digital recording is not likely to be surpassed for warmth of conception and smoothness of execution. Sir Neville Marriner is at the top of his form, the interpretations are first rate, and the strings of the Aca... more »demy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields play with polish and great beauty. The recorded sound is superb. --Ted Libbey« less
This 1993 digital recording is not likely to be surpassed for warmth of conception and smoothness of execution. Sir Neville Marriner is at the top of his form, the interpretations are first rate, and the strings of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields play with polish and great beauty. The recorded sound is superb. --Ted Libbey
"This CD is a delightful collection of some of Vaughan Williams' best-known and best-loved works. All of the recordings are superb, nothing less than what is expected of Marriner and the Academy. If there is any gripe at all, the earlier recording of the Thomas Tallis Fantasia by Marriner and AMSF (on the Argo label) has a little more of the "grab-you" effect when the full orchestra comes cascading in after the first pizzicato statement of the melody. Haitink's performance of the Norfolk Rhapsody (coupled with the Symphony #5) is a little more driven and striking... but folks, these are very minor points. All in all, you will be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying collection of these pieces. When you hear "the wasps" buzzing in the first 10 seconds of the CD, you will know you are in for a treat."
A Sterling Compilation
Joseph Grienenberger | San Diego, CA | 01/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording features exquisite performances, flawless sound, and a very well-chosen program. A previous reviewer categorized the playing as "wooden," but I disagree; perhaps the sublime subtlety of some of these pieces struck that listener as being timidity on the part of the orchestra, especially after the rousing opener, the "Wasps Overture."
I own a number of Vaughan Williams recordings, but this compilation is by far my favorite [it is rarely out of my CD player]. The symphonies are masterworks and the multitudes of songs and choral works are very effecting, but these orchestral works are magnificent in their breadth of styles -- Vaughan Williams really knew how to make use of all the colors an orchestra can create, alternating from huge tuttis to quartet soli; he was a master of writing, for lack of a better phrase, "just the right amount of music" at any given moment, never afraid to have the majority of the orchestra tacet for dozens of bars so that simplicity may reign.
When I first got this CD, I was unfamiliar with the "Norfolk Rhapsody" or "In the Fen Country", but was soon very happy to have encountered them. Though this recording contains the oft-recorded Tallis Fantasia, this is by far the best reading of that magnificent work -- Marriner brilliantly gives all of Vaughan Williams' orchestration tricks their due, from the manipulation of using simultaneous unison and divisi writing to emphasize harmonics, to a striking short section of sustained chords played con sordino that sounds like a church organ; it's simply gorgeous and breathtaking. Above all, I'm grateful this recording does not include the Greensleeves Fantasia that seems to be on virtually every other Vaughan Williams recording.
This recording makes a superb introduction to Vaughan Williams for neophytes [I've gifted this CD to numerous people over the past few years]. Though British music has a reputation for being pretty but restrained, Vaughan Williams' works are passionate, extremely melodic, fetchingly harmonic, and at times achingly bittersweet. A passionate Englishman -- what a concept!"
Excellent Vaughan Williams
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was unfamiliar with the majority of the pieces on this CD, which made it attractive for me. The music comes from widely spaced periods of Ralph Vaughan Williams's life (1903 to 1957). The familiar works, The Wasps and Thomas Tallis, are very well played by the Academy of St Martins in the Fields, as indeed are the other selections. I liked the phrasing in Tallis and The Wasps overture was played with great fun and spirit. In the Fen Country, Norfolk Rhapsody (based on folk songs from Norfolk) and Five Variations of Dives and Lazarus recall Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending and his Third and Fifth symphonies. There are serene, bucolic works that have the feel of the English countryside in them. The Variations for Orchestra was written when the composer was 85 for wind band, but is played here in an orchestration by Gordon Jacobs. The variations recalling the then large-scale work the composer was writing - his Ninth symphony, but is even reminiscent of his Fifth.To conclude, this is a disc of beautiful music well played by St. Martins in the Field, under their longtime conductor Neville Mariner. Not to be missed by lovers of Vaughan Williams's music."
Not just the more famous works
Bruce Gray | Shenandoah Valley, VA, USA | 12/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martins in the Fields presents a fine recording of one of Vaughn William's more famous works, along with a few lesser known and hardly played works.Begining with "The Wasps", this collection of orchestral works by Vaughn Williams will satisfy even the more demanding listener. Marriner proves why he was knighted with his masterful rendition of Vaughn Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis". His familiarity with Vaughn William's works continues thru renditions of "In the Fen Country", "Variations for Orchestra", the "Norfolk Rhapsody" and concluding with "Five Variations of Dives and Lazarus".Vaughn Williams manages to evoke images of the English countryside he knew so well in many of the musical numbers on this disc. His "Norfolk Rhapsody" was originally meant to be a full symphony, but Vaughn Williams finally presented it in this form. The only fault I found with this disc is that I thought it could have included Vaughn Williams' other famous work, "Fantasia on a Theme of Greensleeves", but that work, as well as "Thomas Tallis", get so much airplay that it is almost a relief to see a disc that does not include both works.This totally digital recording belongs on the shelves of every classical music station as well as a look for other classical music libraries."