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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody; In the Fen Country; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • ASIN: B000025S2N
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,086 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resplendent November 30, 2008
The recordings on this CD have been reissued along with Michael Davis's version of The Lark Ascending from Thomson's CD of the Fifth Symphony. I have the original release. This is, quite simply, one of the greatest recordings of English music. Thomson is fully in tune with the mystery of Vaughan Williams's early works for orchestra. The Norfolk Rhapsody and In the Fen Country never become episodic. They have rich atmosphere and, in the case of the Rhapsody, a bustling take on the more vigorous moments. The Tallis Fantasia receives what must be its best performance since Neville Marriner's Argo LP. Some of its most beautiful moments are just when the violins hold one note with a frisson that is truly remarkable. Another comparison with the Marriner LP is the excellent Dives and Lazarus. In Thomson's hands it becomes an epic score, a truly universal statement. The cellos' statements of the theme are truly heartbreaking. The sound engineering on the disc is some of Chandos's best, rich and full with luminous textures. These recordings should be in the collection of every Vaughan Williams afficianado.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Slanted. Approach with some caution May 1, 2012
In this collection of "smaller" (but not less significant) Vaughan Williams orchestral pieces, recorded in June 1986, Bryden Thomson certainly can't be criticized for lack of consistency in his interpretive approach: he favors the very expansive tempos, the lush to thick orchestral textures, the big orchestral sound. Sometimes it works, sometimes I find it less convincing.

Most successful and convincing I find is his "Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus". It is remarkable for the unusually slow tempos adopted by Thomson: not so much in the statement of the theme - it is slow, markedly below the composer's metronome mark and conveying a solemn and longing mood that is not necessarily in the very essence of the music, but Barbirolli (in 1953, the recording premiere, Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia antartica; Oboe Concerto; Elgar: Introduction & Allegro; Cockaigne) and Marriner in 1972 (Vaughan Williams: Fantasies; The Lark Ascending; Five Variants) were slower still. But I appreciate that Thomson should observe to the hilt the composer's instruction to keep the same beat in Variant I (4:01); here, Marriner markedly accelerated, changing the music's character into a much more lively and optimistic statement. Thomson keeps it uniquely slow and longing, and it is very striking. He maintains the same slow-moving pacing in Variant II (5:24), again to striking effect: a pavan danced under water. Variants III to V aren't as remarkable (and Thomson isn't so deft at maintaining the unity of tempo called for by the composer between Variant III and IV: he accelerates at the end of III, when the time signature becomes binary).
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