Vaughan Williams - Orchestral Works

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Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Manze
Onyx 4212 (69:23)

This release is an addendum to Beckenham-born conductor and violinist Andrew Manze’s critically acclaimed recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ (1872-1958) nine symphonies. These would probably be a bit heavy for a lot of light music enthusiasts but the orchestral works on this album are more approachable and among the most popular ‘The Grand Old Man of English Music’ wrote. In fact, The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – together accounting for not quite half the disc – are invariably at or near the top when people are asked to name their favourites from all composers.

The Fantasia on Greensleeves and English Folk Song Suite have been described elsewhere as easy listening, and so they are. The other two works are the rarely heard orchestral version of Serenade to Music and the beautiful Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’, based on a folk tune that RVW also arranged as the hymn tune Kingsfold (“I heard the voice of Jesus say”). There is some fine playing here from the RLPO, and the equally excellent soloist on The Lark is the much sought after award-winning Canadian violinist James Ehnes, who surprisingly gets no credit on the front of the CD booklet.

It would have been nice to have included another RVW favourite, ‘The Wasps’ Overture, as there was room, but perhaps that is being kept for a future album.

There is an uplifting aspect to some of this music and, with very good sound recorded in Liverpool’s The Friary and Philharmonic Hall (for The Lark), I believe it will give much pleasure to anyone buying the disc or download.

Peter Burt.

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