Vaughan Williams: Choral Works

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Choral Works
PERFORMER: Thomas Allen, Bryn Terfel, Alan Opie; Corydon Singers/Matthew Best
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 44321-4 (4 discs)

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This set essentially puts a special-price sleeve around four back catalogue discs, but it’s none the worse for that. Hyperion’s, built up with the excellent singer/conductor Matthew Best and his Corydon Singers, remains rather special. The best discs offer some near-definitive performances, and the least good is still interesting. Best has a fine sense of VW as a dramatic composer, bringing tremendous urgency to Dona Nobis Pacem and real passion to the Five Mystical Songs, both with the benefit of Sir Thomas Allen’s deeply felt solos. Best’s Serenade to Music is undoubtedly the best recording since the original, not least in matching the star quality of the singers, but also in its magical atmosphere. He equally evokes VW’s sensuous side, not only in Flos Campi but also in the Magnificat with its ecstatic writing for female voices. The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, a trial run for what was to become his greatest opera The Pilgrim’s Progress, can seem bloodless; but with Bryn Terfel and Alan Opie heading a fine cast, Best brings out its rapt, dreamlike ambience. Unfortunately A Bunyan Sequence, a worthy attempt to recreate the 1942 BBC drama featuring VW’s incidental music, remains worthy, no more; Gielgud wasn’t the exciting performer of 50 years earlier, and the drama bogs down. It’s not uninteresting, but you’d be better off with the opera. One could very well settle for the two discs including Serenade and Mystical Songs (CDA 66420) and Dona Nobis Pacem (CDA 66655) respectively; but the other two discs are by no means dead losses, if they and the overall price appeal. Michael Scott Rohan