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Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music; Five Mystical Songs; Fantasia on Christmas Carols; Flos Campi Import

21 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, November 17, 1993
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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. --David Vernier

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Serenade To Music
  2. Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - Easter
  3. Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - I Got Me Flowers
  4. Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - Love Bade Me Welcome
  5. Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - The Call
  6. Serenade To Music: Five Mystical Songs - Antiphon
  7. Serenade To Music: Fantasia On Christmas Carols
  8. Serenade To Music: Flos Campi

Product Details

  • Performer: Sixteen Soloists, Thomas Allen, Nobuko Imai, Corydon Singers
  • Orchestra: English Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: Matthew Best
  • Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Audio CD (November 17, 1993)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Hyperion UK
  • ASIN: B000002ZNQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,393 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on February 19, 2001
Format: Audio CD
The best thing about this recording is the composite selection of this music on a single disc. The Corydon Singers, and particularly Thomas Allen (he of legendary career!) are quite fine, though quirkily I prefer John Shirley-Quirk's version of 'Five Mystical Songs' with Kings College Choir, especially his 'Love Bade Me Welcome' with its magnificent rendering of the last words "and I did sit and eat", which once heard will never forsake your memory. The spare yet intensely textured sound of the Corydon Singers is best suited to the diaphanous 'Serenade to Music'. Vaughan Williams' ability to set a text like no one else is a perfect partner to Shakespeare's arching mastery of the English language! It's a superb piece basically ignored in this country, as are most of VW's symphonies except for the ubiquitous No. 2. When have you heard an American orchestra perform the inventive Eighth or the redemptive Fifth? I agree that Boult's recordings of VW's music are a fine standard, &his 'Serenade' is especially fine, but this recording flourishes. Matthew Best gives space and reason to the beautiful ambience of the score. Flos Campi is well done here with Nobuko Imai's viola playing free of affectation as always, displaying an unpretentious mastery of the score. The 'Fantasia' (one of VW's favorite musical motives, even when not properly so called!) demonstrates Vaughan Williams' true veneration of the English hymn tune, a fetching gift that annointed all of us throughout his composing career, and perhaps more than anything secured for him a place in the pantheon of great composers. This is a successful disc of masterworks of an often misunderstood and certainly under-performed composer.Read more ›
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Samer Ismail on December 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
In the liner notes, Christopher Palmer notes that Rachmaninoff himself wept at the beauty of "Serenade to Music" at its 1938 première; this may rank as the finest setting of Shakespeare ever created [it sets parts of Jessica's and Lorenzo's speeches in Act V of "Merchant of Venice"].
I, too, have wept at the beauty of this recording. The sixteen soloists are all outstanding, by themselves and in the 'tutti' passages. As wonderful as other recordings have been (notably Bernstein and Boult), the singing in this one blows them all away. [It is worth noting that this may be the largest number of solos in any major work; even Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" calls for but eight.]
The remaining works are no less wonderful: just as the "Serenade" fades away, Thomas Allen and the Corydon Singers begin a magnificent recording of the "Five Mystical Songs" with an impassioned "Rise Heart", and the work only gets better from there. "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" is another of Vaughan Williams's masterpieces, both for its showmanship and restraint; Best's forces deliver both admirably. And finally, the "Flos Campi," with Nobuko Imai on viola, is simply ravishing.
This is one of my favorite disks, and one I would recommend highly to anyone.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mark Swinton on January 9, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Of this collection, only the "Five Mystical Songs" will be familiar to most listeners. It is a treat to discover the remaining works all available in one package, and especially good to hear them.
"Serenade to Music" (with words by Shakespeare) is quintessential Vaughan Williams: a beautifully crafted piece echoing the height of Romanticism, with a unique and fascinating story behind it. The work was written for a Promenade Concert - more specifically, it was written for sixteen solo singers, who are identified by name in the published score and were amongst the best of their time. Not only was the piece a triumph for them at the concert, it also caught the attention of the composer Rachmaninov, who was moved to tears by the music. The piece is rarely performed because of the fact that it was specially composed for the first performers; as stated in the notes for this recording, it only works if the performers are of as high a standard as the originals. Hence, the "cast" of this CD includes some celebrated names from the world of vocal music: John Mark Ainsley, Thomas Allen, Maldwyn Davies, Anne Dawson, Martyn Hill, Diana Montague, Alan Opie and Jean Rigby are particular standouts. Their rendition is spell-binding and rivetting, although I find that there are moments when their more operatic traits get the better of them and ruin the tuning and clarity of melodic and harmonic details. I don't mean to say that it is a bad recording, but I have heard better ones (Sir Adrian Boult's will probably remain untouchable for a long time to come). Still, a pleasure to hear, and extremely moving - it's not hard to see why Rachmaninov was so deeply affected by the piece.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on October 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I don't know why Serenade to Music is not performed more often. As others have indicated, this beautiful work is the highlight of the disc. This is a piece you can really sit back and get lost in. It's a wonderful listening experience. Conductor Matthew Best does a wonderful job of integrating the voices with the orchestra. The familiar Flos Campi is also a nice performance, as is the Fantasia, which also should be performed more often. My only complaint is in the recording levels: you really have to crank up the volume quite a lot to hear the opening of the Serenade. But on the other hand, if you leave the volume at that setting, the highs really soar. (Just make sure your neighbors are not at home!)
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