Vaughan Williams, Sibelius

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams, Sibelius
WORKS: Vaughan Williams
Symphony No. 4
Sibelius
Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: BBC Symphony Orchestra/
Malcolm Sargent
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4237-2

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Throughout the post-war years Sir Malcolm Sargent was the nation’s familiar face of classical music, his dapper, urbane image – earning the nickname ‘Flash Harry’ – obscuring his real ability. A wide-ranging conductor of a vanished kind (Sir Alex Gibson was probably the last), he championed Sibelius and British music throughout lean years. He recorded relatively little, though, so concert performances like these provide a fine memorial. Sargent’s association with Vaughan Williams dated from ‘rescuing’ and recording the 1924 premiere of Hugh the Drover. This Fourth Symphony opens with a similar crispness, if not thunderous power, and he takes the tempestuous first movement with speed. The second is cooler and more atmospheric, and the later two still brisk but attractively poised and fluent. The BBC orchestra wasn’t as polished then, but lively and willing. Likewise the Sibelius, a reflective performance without the frightening austerity of, say, Maazel’s; but the first movement has plenty of power. The Allegro is airy and the third more gently melancholy than sombre. The finale lacks thrust. With clear, involving recordings these are enjoyable if not first-rank performances. Michael Scott Rohan