COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: The Solent; Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra; Suite of Six Short Pieces for Piano; The Lark Ascending
PERFORMER: Jennifer Pike (violin); Sina Kloke (piano); Chamber Orchestra of New York/Salvatore di Vittorio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573530
With so many recordings of The Lark Ascending available, a new one has to offer something special to soar clear of the crowd. Jennifer Pike’s playing – at once forthright and beautifully yearning, with technique to match – puts her contribution into that category. Unfortunately the recorded balance presents a tight acoustic, which means that Pike’s solo playing sounds too close, as does the orchestra (whose players don’t seem themselves to be playing too loudly).
The situation is compounded further in The Solent – the still young Vaughan Williams’s remarkable symphonic poem, completed in 1903, and announcing the arrival of his true composing voice earlier than is often thought. Conductor and orchestra engage full-heartedly with the music’s seascape loveliness, including an authentic Vaughan Williams opening (quiet, widely spread string chords). But the orchestra’s chamber-sized string section is too small for a work with full woodwind and brass, and the cramped acoustic makes this lopsided situation worse. In another Vaughan Williams rarity from the same early vintage, the Fantasia for piano and orchestra, Sina Kloke’s delivery of the solo part keeps the music’s clunky sturdiness under stylish control. The Suite of Six Short Pieces of 1920 will be familiar to RVW buffs in its later arrangement for strings as the Charterhouse Suite. The music has a finesse that belies the workaday title; Kloke’s playing nicely captures its appeal.