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Vaughan Williams: Transcriptions from Truro

Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin); David Briggs (organ) (Albion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Vaughan Williams – Transcriptions from Truro
Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus; The Lark Ascending*; Symphony No. 5
*Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin); David Briggs (organ)
Albion ALBCD049   76:26 mins


Originally for strings and harp, the elaborate contrapuntal writing of Five Variants doesn’t always come across on the organ. Partly this is due to Truro Cathedral’s reverberant acoustic, which warms yet blurs the sound. And I miss the harp, which points up the texture of the orchestral version,.

That’s where the solo violin in The Lark Ascending scores, providing a contrast in colour to the harmonic bed of the organ. The acoustic of the cathedral gives Rupert Marshall-Luck’s playing a sheen, particularly in the slow outer sections: the more folksy dance in the middle works less well, and exposes a few insecurities of pitch in the higher registers. But the final ethereal ascent is very affecting.

The Symphony’s opening, much of it built over long pedal points, transfers naturally to organ, and Briggs paces it well, using registration to articulate texture and build up tension. Again, the faster music of the central Allegro isn’t as effective, and the Scherzo’s flurries and cross-rhythms don’t always have an impact. We’re on much firmer ground in the Romanza, where the slow tempo and the sustained timbre bring out the music’s intimate, devotional character, and the final Passacaglia, another natural fit for the organ, presents a touching farewell.

Martin Cotton

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