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Symphonies 4 & 5 [Import]

R. Vaughan Williams Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 10, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Dutton Labs UK
  • ASIN: B0000666B3
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,146 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Symphony No. 4 in F minor: 1. Allegro
2. Symphony No. 4 in F minor: 2. Andante moderato
3. Symphony No. 4 in F minor: 3. Scherzo: Allegro molto
4. Symphony No. 4 in F minor: 4. Finale con epilogo fugato: Allegro molto
5. Symphony No. 5 in D major: 1. Preludio: Moderato
6. Symphony No. 5 in D major: 2. Scherzo: Presto
7. Symphony No. 5 in D major: 3. Romanza: Lento
8. Symphony No. 5 in D major: 4. Passacaglia: Moderato

Editorial Reviews

Vaughan Williams's 1937 recording of his Fourth Symphony is more than a document of a great composer conducting his own music. It's a terrific performance, bristling with fiery tension like no other in the catalogue. He sets a torrid pace for a work often thought of as encompassing feelings of dread in a Europe barreling toward another World War. It's a tough, uncompromising work, of which the composer himself said: "I don't know if I like it, but it's what I meant." The BBC Symphony plays its collective heart out for him; an air of special occasion suffuses the disc. The composer-conductor leads a slow movement notable for the way he achieves note-to-note tension, and its enigmatic closing flute solo is movingly done. The Fifth Symphony, completed in 1943, is a quite different work, gentler and more lyrical. Barbirolli, leading his newly reconstituted Halle band the year after the work's premiere, conducts an ardent performance, more passionate than his stereo remake for EMI. Dutton's transfers of these "historical recordings" are eminently listenable. --Dan Davis

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Special and essential Vaughan Williams readings May 30, 2006
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Despite its less than modern sound, (though, I feel, pretty decent) this cd contains outstanding interpretations of two very different, yet deeply felt symphonies by the great British master, Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composer himself leads one of his most searing works, the F minor Fourth, while Sir John Barbirolli directs the poignant, spiritually satisfying D major Fifth. Respectively, the recordings were taped in 1937 and 1944. The passage of time, however, has dimmed neither the impact nor the images wrought by the conceptions of both conductors. To get some idea as to how good these accounts were (are) I have decided to compare them to Boult's readings of 4 and 5 from his frequently praised set of the Complete Vaughan Williams Symphonies on EMI stereo.

Directing the BBC Symphony in his Fourth Symphony, the composer seems to know exactly what he wants to say, and he says it, beginning with a gripping musical statement of the first movement. Here, he easily bests Boult in conveying the sense of anguish and turmoil. Though Boult gives a good account of the pensive second movement, the composer outdoes him by tapping into a deeper layer of concern. And, while Boult is quite solid too in the caper of the third movement scherzo and the shenanigans of the final movement, he is again outclassed by the composer with regard to sheer visceral excitement. Of course, Boult enjoys much better sound reproduction, and that is a definite plus ; however, the composer's near relentless intensity throughout is so overpowering that it nearly casts a shadow over Boult's fairly fine interpretation.

To my ears, Barbirolli and Boult offer two quite different views of the lovely Fifth Symphony. Boult sounds more extrovert and modern, Barbirolli more introvert and backward looking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Vaughan Williams Recordings October 22, 2010
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ralph Vaughan Williams recorded only one of his symphonies - the Fourth in 1937. The recording is remarkable for the fast tempos adopted by the composer, much faster than recordings by Sir Adrian Boult, Richard Hickox, Paul Daniel and Bernard Haitink. Vaughan Williams did not conduct the first performance of the symphony, leaving that to Adrian Boult. He is quotes in the booklet as saying about the slow movement, "I didn't know how it should go, but he did." As exciting as the symphony is, the frantic tempi are a bit much. The transfer to digital is very good and is free from any surface noise.

The performance of the Fifth Symphony by the Halle with Sir John Barbirolli from 1944 is magical. The was the second recording made by the Halle. The performance is one of complete understanding and affection for Vaughan Williams music. The drama of the opening horn solo is superb and the peaceful conclusion of the symphony is very moving. The recording has been beautifully re-mastered and although mono the balance and clarity of the music comes through. This is a must have disc for anyone interested in Vaughan Williams' music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best way to get two classic VW recordings February 19, 2006
Format:Audio CD
Dutton's transfer of Vaughan Williams conducting his own Sym. #4 from 1937 has eliminated ticks and hiss, but nobody could call this old shellac more than listenable--it's boxy, with thin, shrill violins. I found it good for one listen, yet despite the vigor, even near-violence of the composer's conducting, we've had great performances in modern sound, too--see the one with Leondard Bernstein and the NY Phil. on Sony.

Much easier on the ears is Sym. #5 under Barbriolli from 1944. The engineers had more to work with, and although the sound is distant and not the best for its era, you hear the work in its full dimensions. By general agreement Barbirolli was more vigorous and imaginative here than in his later remakes. I'd go further and say that this is the best Fifth I've ever heard. The work draws out the worst in British conductors, who maunder thorugh the daisies in the pastoral sections, which amount to 80% of the work. The orchestral writing is homogeneous to begin with, so it's nice that Barbirolli finds more grit and texture, more drama and contrast than anyone since. A first choice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reverential July 27, 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Vaughan Williams & Barbirolli!!! What a privilege. Barbirolli's 5th has always been my favorite version, deeply moving, poignant, releasing a genuine feeling of pastoral mystery. Williams' version of the 4th raises Boult's, long the best in my estimation, a good notch.
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