Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - I Got Me Flowers
Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - Love Bade Me Welcome
Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - The Call
Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - Antiphon
Serenade To Music: Fantasia On Christmas Carols
Serenade To Music: Flos Campi
Not only is this album an essential compilation for Vaughan Williams fans, but it's also a treat for anyone who loves beautiful choral music--from the popular and unabashedly romantic Serenade to Music, properly performed ... more »here with eight solo singers, to the rarely recorded Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Baritone Thomas Allen, who performs the Five Mystical Songs and solos in the Fantasia, is simply outstanding. --David Vernier« less
Not only is this album an essential compilation for Vaughan Williams fans, but it's also a treat for anyone who loves beautiful choral music--from the popular and unabashedly romantic Serenade to Music, properly performed here with eight solo singers, to the rarely recorded Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Baritone Thomas Allen, who performs the Five Mystical Songs and solos in the Fantasia, is simply outstanding. --David Vernier
"Of this collection, only the "Five Mystical Songs" will be familiar to most listeners. It is a treat to discover the remaining works all available in one package, and especially good to hear them."Serenade to Music" (with words by Shakespeare) is quintessential Vaughan Williams: a beautifully crafted piece echoing the height of Romanticism, with a unique and fascinating story behind it. The work was written for a Promenade Concert - more specifically, it was written for sixteen solo singers, who are identified by name in the published score and were amongst the best of their time. Not only was the piece a triumph for them at the concert, it also caught the attention of the composer Rachmaninov, who was moved to tears by the music. The piece is rarely performed because of the fact that it was specially composed for the first performers; as stated in the notes for this recording, it only works if the performers are of as high a standard as the originals. Hence, the "cast" of this CD includes some celebrated names from the world of vocal music: John Mark Ainsley, Thomas Allen, Maldwyn Davies, Anne Dawson, Martyn Hill, Diana Montague, Alan Opie and Jean Rigby are particular standouts. Their rendition is spell-binding and rivetting, although I find that there are moments when their more operatic traits get the better of them and ruin the tuning and clarity of melodic and harmonic details. I don't mean to say that it is a bad recording, but I have heard better ones (Sir Adrian Boult's will probably remain untouchable for a long time to come). Still, a pleasure to hear, and extremely moving - it's not hard to see why Rachmaninov was so deeply affected by the piece.Thomas Allen also serves as baritone soloist for the "Five Mystical Songs" and the rarer "Fantasia on Christmas Carols." As a choral singer, I have had the pleasure of performing these works myself, and this recording conveys them as stirringly as I remember them. In the former work, the bulk of the music is carried by the baritone; the chorus comes into its own for the final movement, "Let all the world in every corner sing" but is otherwise a background force. In the latter work, based on carol tunes collected and arranged by Vaughan Williams as part of his work as editor of the English Hymnal and Oxford Book of Carols, the music is shared more substantially by soloist and chorus. These performances give the music a wonderful 'glow,' just as they ought to have. In the case of the "Fantasia," it's well worth saving that track until Christmas...The last work on the disc is "Flos Campi," in which Vaughan Williams breaks with many tonal conventions in a stunning display of orchestration, filled with achingly beautiful melodic twists and lucious harmonies, hinting very strongly at the erotic. Nobuko Imai provides a characteristic viola solo, whilst the chorus is confined to textless vocalisation. The effect is pondered in much detail in the programme notes; suffice it to say, it is a work that will leave itself etched on the mind as one of the most haunting and mysterious ever written.Throughout this recording, the English Chamber Orchestra plays to perfection with Matthew Best at the helm. His Corydon Singers prove their considerable strength as a choral group with effortless control. This is a wonderful document - whatever the season."
Excellent recordings, and an outstanding "Serenade"
Samer T Ismail | Danbury, CT | 12/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the liner notes, Christopher Palmer notes that Rachmaninoff himself wept at the beauty of "Serenade to Music" at its 1938 première; this may rank as the finest setting of Shakespeare ever created [it sets parts of Jessica's and Lorenzo's speeches in Act V of "Merchant of Venice"].I, too, have wept at the beauty of this recording. The sixteen soloists are all outstanding, by themselves and in the 'tutti' passages. As wonderful as other recordings have been (notably Bernstein and Boult), the singing in this one blows them all away. [It is worth noting that this may be the largest number of solos in any major work; even Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" calls for but eight.]The remaining works are no less wonderful: just as the "Serenade" fades away, Thomas Allen and the Corydon Singers begin a magnificent recording of the "Five Mystical Songs" with an impassioned "Rise Heart", and the work only gets better from there. "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" is another of Vaughan Williams's masterpieces, both for its showmanship and restraint; Best's forces deliver both admirably. And finally, the "Flos Campi," with Nobuko Imai on viola, is simply ravishing.This is one of my favorite disks, and one I would recommend highly to anyone."
A Wonderful Find
A. Wolverton | Crofton, MD United States | 10/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know why Serenade to Music is not performed more often. As others have indicated, this beautiful work is the highlight of the disc. This is a piece you can really sit back and get lost in. It's a wonderful listening experience. Conductor Matthew Best does a wonderful job of integrating the voices with the orchestra. The familiar Flos Campi is also a nice performance, as is the Fantasia, which also should be performed more often. My only complaint is in the recording levels: you really have to crank up the volume quite a lot to hear the opening of the Serenade. But on the other hand, if you leave the volume at that setting, the highs really soar. (Just make sure your neighbors are not at home!)"
Excellent recording of the Serenade , remainder above averag
A. Wolverton | 11/16/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this disk, for the "Five mystical songs", having heard them in performance by my son's college choir. It also received a "record to die for" rating from Stereophile magazine. This is beautiful music,wonderfully recorded. Even if you don't have "high-end" equipment, it's worth having. The "Serenade to music" is definitely the star though in terms of recording quality."