COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: The Lake in the Mountains; Introduction and Fugue for two pianos; Hymn-tune Prelude on Song 13 by Orlando Gibbons; Fantasia on Greensleeves; A Little Piano Book; Suite of Six Short Pieces; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (arr. Jacobson and Vaughan Williams)
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington, Rebeca Omordia (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 0164
As a CD title, The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams isn’t as unbelievable, say, as The Concert Overtures of Olivier Messiaen, but considering the small quantity in the composer’s output it still takes one by surprise. So does some of the music, especially the Introduction and Fugue for two pianos (in its first recording). Part Bach homage, part possible musing on the clamours of war, this neglected milestone from 1947 is given a fiery account by Mark Bebbington and Rebecca Omordia. Their thunderous triple forte chords strike with terrifying force in the close recording.
An entirely different mood is needed in the arrangement of the Tallis Fantasia. We naturally lose Vaughan Williams’s original halo of echoing strings, but there’s a special pleasure in having the work’s bone structure so starkly revealed; not the case with the dutiful shrinkage of the Fantasia on Greensleeves. Other highlights include the short but spacious solo piece The Lake in the Mountains (spun from the 49th Parallel film score) and the idiosyncratic, florid reverie on Bach’s chorale Ach bleib’ bei uns. Smaller pleasures trickle from the two pedagogical sets of miniatures, but Bebbington crafts each piece tenderly. An essential disc for Vaughan Williams fans and curio hunters.