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Williams: Symphony No. 5 in D / Dona Nobis Pacem

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 22, 2008
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Vaughan Williams
  • Composer: Vaughan Williams
  • Audio CD (January 22, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Somm Recordings
  • ASIN: B000WM86UW
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,635 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Vaughan Williams was (unlike some composers) a superb interpreter of his own music. This rare example of RVW conducting for the microphone is made all the more wonderful for its amazingly good sound.

This performance of Symphony No. 5 comes from a 1952 Proms performance in Royal Albert Hall. It's a warm and gentle reading. In the first movement's closing pages, the composer leads the orchestra into a gradual unfolding of the climax rather than slamming into it as some conductors do. Similarly, the meditative slow movement has never sounded lovelier. Balances among the orchestra sections are carefully shaped. Being a live show, there is the occasional misstep from the players and some audience noise, but this adds to the sense of occasion rather than being distracting.

This BBC radio broadcast was captured on long-playing acetate discs, and the results are stunning. Instrumental color is preserved. There is real dynamic range. Louder passages avoid congestion. The excellent transfer to CD has captured some surface swishing from the acetate discs, but it's surprisingly unobtrusive.

I usually think of historical recordings as intellectually intriguing but disappointing listening experiences, Not this disc; it's a pleasure on all fronts. Only the most jaded digital sound junkie will fail to enjoy it. If I could only have one recording of this work, this would be it.

The state of recording art in 1936 was considerably less developed for the studio recording of "Dona Nobis Pacem", which has the usual defects of the time--tinny sound quality, congested climaxes. The sound is still good enough for the performance's spirit to come through, and it's well worth hearing. RVW approaches the work with a rough energy reminiscent of his famous HMV 4th Symphony recording.
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If you have VW's performance of the 4th Symphony (1938 I think) you will know if as fiery, dramatic and generally better than any recording since (though of course in poor sound). RVW brings the same command and authenticity to his reading here of his elegiac 5th symphony. I was struck by how smooth the phrasing is, much more legato than many conductors and that he balances the sound so well. Other reviews I agree with completely, the sound restoration is amazing. This is a must have for fans of RVW.
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A performance like no other! Conducted by the composer, and performed with all the nuances of his desire. He makes it a masterpiece! Such an honor to have this preserved into a digital format for us all to enjoy for eternity.
He looks at the humanity of war up close. His hope and promise is that we can stop repeating ourselves.
A very sad piece. Yet so full of love. It is an inspirational piece for a better tomorrow. A peaceful tomorrow!
Highly recommend!
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I agree with the other reviewers. What a blessing to have this radiant symphony conducted by the great man himself. It gives me chills. I love this symphony and to have it preserved so lovingly is a wonderful gift. When this was first released, the music reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer (my local paper at the time) said it was the best ever. Of all the great composers, I would most wish to have been friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams.
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