Andre Previn Conducts Vaughan Williams
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André Previn Conducts Vaughan Williams Symphonies 1-9, Concerto and More
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One of the most acclaimed cycles of the Vaughan Williams symphonies, among the 20th centurys greatest, was set down by André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s. On its previous reissue, ClassicsToday.com ranked it arguably the best such offering on the market today. Penguin Guide called No. 3 an outstandingly beautiful and refined performance. In praising No. 5, MusicWeb International exclaimed: The great inner strength and glories of this music are revealed here by fabulously eloquent playing. Reviewing No. 7, the Sinfonia Antarctica, Gramophone wrote that Previn demonstrated that this is an intense, even a tough, work For once the sequential first movement, very slow and concentrated, seems an aptly monumental opening with playing from the LSO of superb quality. The magazine also declared its preference for Previns thoughtful, sensitive and rounded performance of the Eighth. This is an indispensable set.
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A remarkable achievement for all involved and if you’re a newcomer to Vaughan Williams’ symphonies, you would do well to pick up this set as I’m sure it will provide you with many years of enjoyment.
Top international reviews
Haitink made a much admired set for EMI that has stood the test of time and withstood a great deal of the competition. It contains a generous selection of extras as well. The sound is still very fine and has impressive depth and weight and those characteristics match Haitink’s approach perfectly. There is a strong sense of the epic within Haitink’s structural approach which underpins its appeal for collectors.
Previn, though, is markedly different in his choice of emphases to those of Haitink and this makes him stand out from other versions too. Previn adopts a more dramatic approach to all of these symphonies and that impact is regularly accompanied by more biting tempi, rhythmic control and phrasing that some earlier reviews have described as tough. That essential toughness is very apparent in the Antarctica Symphony (number 7), especially when compared to Haitink for example. Whereas Haitink emphasises the scale and architectural power of the location, Previn makes us feel the cut of the wind, the grinding of the ice and the remorseless challenges of the living environment. The film origin of the inspiration is made graphic.
Equally the biting thrust of the 4th, the early attack and final desolation of the 6th, the pervading good humour of the 8th, the energetically youthful and exuberant celebration of the 2nd can easily be matched with equally graphic descriptors for the remaining symphonies 1, 3, 5 and 9. The pictorial, almost cinematic, nature of Previn’s accounts are perfectly matched by the flamboyant playing of the LSO, London’s most extrovert orchestra of the time, as well as the crisply articulate re-mastered quality of the remastering in 24 bit. The additional items, the Wasps overture and the concertos for bass tuba and violin plus the three Tudor portraits, are also given sprightly performances.
This is a set for those who like their Vaughan Williams to have energy, bite and toughness tempered by a clear melodic awareness.
My only complaint about this welcome reissue is the notes, or more accurately, paucity thereof. No comments on the symphonies or Previn's interpretation, just a bald statement of tracks, timings and recording dates in a booklet of just 8 pages. The earlier RCA Red Seal set of this cycle under their "Complete Collections" series (now sadly out of print) is much more generous in this respect. If you can find a good second hand copy of the RCA set I would recommend it over this issue.
First two discs were great as was the third but the forth had one of the symphonies on the third on it.
Discs 5 and 6 were faulty as in noise on them/interference. Not due to my player as tested with several other discs of my own..
A very disappointing experience