Cathy L. from KERRVILLE, TX Reviewed on 4/29/2007...
Not my favorite Vaughn Williams but it may be yours!
One of my favorites
NotATameLion | Michigan | 08/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recently watched an interview on PBS with the composer John Corigliano. In the interview Corigliano was lamenting the current state of criticism within classical music. An intellectual elite have imposed their aesthetics on a generation of composers and listeners. This aesthetic essentially boils down to whether music is complex and "deep" enough to be considered good. If the music is merely entertaining of beautiful to listen to the critics say it is worthless drivel. Corigliano voiced his disagreement with this aesthetic (one which I share). People should not be ashamed of a piece of music simply because they like it. I mention all this in order to say that if I were the kind of person who got ashamed of music simply because of its beauty, then this disc of works by Ralph Vaughan Williams would probably be among the first inductees into my hall of shame. This music is beauty in motion...from the stunningly sunny "Serenade to Music" to the aching "Lark Ascending," there is not a bad piece of music on this disc. Since I am not a particularly shame-filled person, I find myself free to mention that I have found the "English Folk Song Suite" and "Norfolk Rhapsody No 1" two of the best pieces of music to listen to while reading the works of Tolkien. It says something about the greatness of a work when you really like all the pieces and have no clear-cut favorite among them...such is the case with this disc and me. I give it my highest recommendation."
The commitment of Sir Adrian Boult.
jean couture | Quebec city - Canada | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This silvery disc contains rapturous readings of some very good works of genuinely English music. Overall sound is really good (fares quite well, even when compared to the "audiophile" records of the day). The choice of "tunes" is representative.
Recently, i revisited a couple of versions of `The Lark Ascending' which hark back to the good old days of "stereo" : One by Neville Marriner with his excellent musicians of St.Martin's and a few others, including Boult's. In fact, Boult's record certainly has "the edge" over Marriner and his authority makes no doubt ; that being said, they both give us strong and credible readings of a timeless work written for the violin. The Boult recording is especially top-level. Hugh Bean, a soloist of choice , has a masterful presence that complements fittingly Boult's fine orchestral control. For an historic recording of 'The Lark' you should look for Boult's seemingly unsurpassed version with violinist Jean Pougnet (released on Dutton). Be warned : Sound quality of the latter -a vintage mono recording- is far from the excellence provided by EMI or Decca in their later stereo recordings. Brilliant conductor Richard Hickox, in a superb EMI collection, offers another stupendous reading of 'The Lark' ; the solo violin of Bradley Creswick and the magnificent play-through of the orchestra deliver one of the top performances on disc - i venture to say it is nearly as good as the EMI/Boult!
Additionally to 'The Lark', there are lovely performances offered on the EMI/Boult cd : 'Serenade to Music' is not quite outclassed by the original performance under Henry Wood--which is a glorious 1930's recording but with somewhat limited sound. Boult's rendition is also better than the one from Matthew Best on Hyperion, though very good the latter is. No wonder since Boult had set up a first-class team for the recording, featuring a handful of artists chosen among the finest singers from Europe. There also exist a very good choral-only version by Vernon Handley (again, on EMI). The 'Norfolk Rhapsody No.1' is another treasured piece of music in which Boult does fairly better than the "competition" (for instance, Barry Wordsworth's version with the New Queen's Hall Orchestra isn't as good a reading). 'In the Fen Country', with its refreshing musical atmosphere, also receives a charming and colorful presentation. The comparatively brief 'Fantasia on Greensleeves' is as delightful as its name suggests, though i will always have a sweet spot for the likes of Abravanel or Previn for their superlative virtues.
The 'English Folk Song Suite' does pretty well here, thanks notably to careful orchestral touches ; perhaps, the Intermezzo is slightly more efficient under Vernon Handley, the glorious strings of the RLPO redefining the loftiness of that "pastoral" piece. Neville Marriner did, as well, a particularly beautiful recording of it. However, for some sheer sound and bursting percussive impacts, one shall look at a handful of excellent versions for wind bands--much preferable in that case (after all, the suite was intentionally written for military -wind band- sonorities). This is the best way to hear the work at it's fullest (i urge you to hear the Grenadier Guards, issued on Emblem as EMBL8001).
In conclusion : Reliable sound and honest interpretations. EMI Records offer a real gift of music with this splendid album of works by Vaughan Williams. Check it out! *****"
These performances have never been out of print . . .
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 01/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These performances have never been out of print and there's a good reason. They are treasured by many lovers of Vaughan Williams as being the best modern-era recordings of some of his most lovable music. Short of having a recording of the 1930s première of 'Serenade to Music', I can't think of another recording that even comes close. It's the version for sixteen solo voices, not the choral version or the orchestra-alone version. It's the music as RVW wrote it. As for Hugh Bean's ecstatic performance of 'The Lark Ascending', it's never been bettered. I have a friend who was so enamored of the Folk Song Suite that he and his bride had selections played at their wedding. Guess which version they had piped over the PA system? You guessed it. (This recording, by the way, is the arrangement for full orchestra that Gordon Jacobs made from the wind band original.)Don't hesitate. As for me, this is one of my Desert Isle CDs. (I wonder if I can get batteries for my Discman on that desert isle?)"
Good readings lacking passion in good sound
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 11/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many years after his death, Sir Adrian Boult continues to be admired as one of the linchpin -- and perhaps the archtype -- conductors of the music of his friend and countryman, Ralph Vaughan Williams. This recording, made in the autumnal years of Boutl's life, is a generous collection of bucolic English music from Vaughan Williams.
While these performances are lovely, as the other reviewers here have reported, they pale in comparison to the passion Boult provided earlier in his career. On a recording made from a Westminster LP, Boult provided more passionate and committed versions of the English Folk Song Suite, Greensleeves Fantasia and Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 linked to a dramatic reading of the Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, one of Vaughan Williams most popular and enduring tunes.
Like the comparison between his early mono recordings of Vaughan Williams' symphonies and his later stereo recording, Boult was simply older and more at ease with the music in the later recordings. While they are still wonderful, the later stereo recordings lack some of the mystery and passion of his earlier work, especially his "Antartica" symphony. People that search the Internet relentlessly can locate the earlier recordings including a CD restoration of the old Westminster record.
For those not interested in that, these renderings of Serenade to Msuic, English Folk Song Suite, Norfolk Rhapsody No.1, Fantasia On 'Greensleeves', In The Fen Country and violinist Hugh Bean's The Lark Ascending are beautifully done at a lower voltage. Either gives you the ethereal Boult although his earlier recordings, sometimes in mono, give life and breadth to these works not reflected here. "
The Perfect Marriage: Vaughan Williams and Boult
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though this recording is a compilation of recordings created between 1967 through 1987 and then re-mastered, it remains the critic's and the public's choice for this amazingly beautiful selection of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Sir Adrian Boult conducts both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Philharmonia Orchestra in the way that only he could produce the strange beauty of Vaughan Williams little pieces.
No expense was spared for the original pressings. Hugh Bean is the incomparable soloist for 'The Lark Ascending', very likely the finest recorded performance of this work. And the sixteen soloists for the 'Serenade to Music' include such luminaries as Sheila Armstrong, Norma Burrowes, Ian Partridge, John Noble, Alfreda Hodgson - some of Britain's finest vocalists. Even the evergreen 'Fantasia on 'Greensleeves' sounds new and the less often performed 'In the Fen Country' and 'English Folksong Suite' and 'Norfolk Rhapsody' are performed with such seamless beauty that they 'are such stuff as dreams are made on.'
For lovers of Vaughan Williams this CD is indispensable: for those who know little of his output, this is one fine start toward a deeper appreciation of the power of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, February 06"