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Ralph Vaughan Williams
Recommended Recordings



A Portrait of Vaughan Williams
(Pierre Joubert, Susan Lynn, et al; English String Orchestra, Medici String Quartet, et al; William Boughton and Stephen Darlington, conducting)


A Vaughan Williams Hymnal
(Cambridge Trinity College Choir, Richard Marlow, conductor)
English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams not only was the esteemed author of symphonies, choral masterpieces, chamber works, and songs, but he also was the major force behind the compilation of the 1906 English Hymnal, a task that put the composer in touch with "some of the best--and some of the worst" music in the world. His esthetic and artistic values, and his well-grounded sense of what makes a good, singable tune, led him to select the best and reject the worst--and through the process he contributed several of his own tunes and harmonizations to the collection. This outstanding recording includes five of Vaughan Williams's own tunes, 16 more that he selected and arranged for the hymnal, and his beloved Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes. This is a wonderful, "must-have" collection, beautifully, articulately, and reverently sung, with first-rate organ solos and accompaniments and excellent liner notes. (review by David Vernier)

British Composers - Vaughan Williams: Riders to the Sea, etc
(Norma Burrowes, Valery Hill, et al; Ambrosian Ladies Chorus, Orchestra Nova, et al; Meredith Davies, David Willcocks, conductor)


Complete Symphonies, etc
(Hugh Bean, Victor Babin, et al; London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, et al; Sir Adrian Boult, conductor)
Adrian Boult's credentials in this repertoire are unassailable, and to have nearly all his stereo Vaughan Williams recordings for EMI so elegantly packaged and enticingly priced will be incentive enough for many a prospective purchaser. There's much to treasure here, not least those gently perceptive accounts of the first three symphonies, as well as the Fifth and the Ninth. All the same, the fires burned more brightly on Boult's earlier mono cycle for Decca, and there's some oddly listless orchestral playing to contend with in both the Sinfonia Antarctica and the Eighth, especially. The Fourth and Sixth, too, find the New Philharmonia in less than ideally tidy form. The disc of shorter orchestral items and the gorgeous Serenade to Music offer mostly unbridled pleasure (with Hugh Bean a memorably serene soloist in The Lark Ascending), as does Boult's fourth and final recording of Job, though here, too, tension levels are markedly lower than on either of his mono versions. No matter, for all its ups and downs, the present anthology undoubtedly offers fine value for the money. (review by Andrew Achenbach)

Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis
(William Bennett, Iona Brown, et al.; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Sir Neville Marriner, conductor)
Marriner's evergreen 1972 recording of favorite shorter works by Vaughan Williams has yet to be surpassed for warmth of conception and smoothness of execution. The soloists in these accounts (among them William Bennett in the Greensleeves Fantasia and Iona Brown in the Lark Ascending) are all first-rate, and the Academy's strings play with polish and great beauty of sound. The analog recording is excellent, and Marriner's remarkable empathy for the music comes across effortlessly. Some listeners may prefer the richer sonority and arrestingly mystical manner of Marriner's 1993 digital remake of the Tallis Fantasia for Philips, but this disc offers the most desirable coupling of other works and remains a first choice for those interested in getting to know the composer's finest short essays. (Review by Ted Libbey)

Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis
(William Bennett, Iona Brown, et al; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Sir Neville Marriner, conductor)
Marriner's evergreen 1972 recording of favorite shorter works by Vaughan Williams has yet to be surpassed for warmth of conception and smoothness of execution. The soloists in these accounts (among them William Bennett in the Greensleeves Fantasia and Iona Brown in the Lark Ascending) are all first-rate, and the Academy's strings play with polish and great beauty of sound. The analog recording is excellent, and Marriner's remarkable empathy for the music comes across effortlessly. Some listeners may prefer the richer sonority and arrestingly mystical manner of Marriner's 1993 digital remake of the Tallis Fantasia for Philips, but this disc offers the most desirable coupling of other works and remains a first choice for those interested in getting to know the composer's finest short essays. (review by Ted Libbey)

Lark Ascending - The Soft Soft Sounds of Vaughan Williams
(Various artists)


Serenade to Music, Mystical Songs
(John Mark Ainsley, Thomas Allen, et al; Corydon Singers, English Chamber Orchestra; Matthew Best, conductor)
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. (review by David Vernier)

Sinfonia Antarctica, etc
(Catherine Bott; London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, conductor)


Sinfonia Antarctica, etc
(Catherine Bott; London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, conductor)


Vaughan Williams: Complete Symphonies, etc
(Hugh Bean, Victor Babin, et al; London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, et al.; Sir Adrian Boult, conductor)
Adrian Boult's credentials in this repertoire are unassailable, and to have nearly all his stereo Vaughan Williams recordings for EMI so elegantly packaged and enticingly priced will be incentive enough for many a prospective purchaser. There's much to treasure here, not least those gently perceptive accounts of the first three symphonies, as well as the Fifth and the Ninth. All the same, the fires burned more brightly on Boult's earlier mono cycle for Decca, and there's some oddly listless orchestral playing to contend with in both the Sinfonia Antarctica and the Eighth, especially. The Fourth and Sixth, too, find the New Philharmonia in less than ideally tidy form. The disc of shorter orchestral items and the gorgeous Serenade to Music offer mostly unbridled pleasure (with Hugh Bean a memorably serene soloist in The Lark Ascending), as does Boult's fourth and final recording of Job, though here, too, tension levels are markedly lower than on either of his mono versions. No matter, for all its ups and downs, the present anthology undoubtedly offers fine value for the money. (Review by Andrew Achenbach)

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