Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 3 (Pastoral); Symphony No. 4; Fantasia on Greensleeves

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Pastoral); Symphony No. 4; Fantasia on Greensleeves
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61194 2 DDD
Slatkin’s impressive RVW series continues with splendid performances of these three symphonies. Vaughan Williams’s experiences of the Great War influenced the Pastoral Symphony (1921), for it is commemorative of the fallen, and deeply mystical as well as being quietly contemplative of the landscape and evening skies. Slatkin’s reading is deeply sensitive and translucent, pointing up the richness of the colour, harmony and melody. In contrast, the anger, violence and discord of the Fourth Symphony (1934), with its rhythmical elasticity and brilliant orchestration, were thought by many to be a warning against fascism. This is a strong and biting account emphasising the sardonic humour of the work, aided by a warm, clear, spacious recording. Slatkin gives a towering and majestic performance of the Sinfonia Antartica (No. 7), which evolved from RVW’s score for the film Scott of the Antarctic. It must be regarded as the best modern choice, eclipsing even Haitink’s impressive EMI recording. Slatkin’s Antarctic wilderness chills you to the bone. You smile at the comic dignity of the penguins, are awed at the immensity and weight of the ice wall and thoroughly involved in the human tragedy. A glowing account of the lovely Dives and Lazarus Variants completes a very attractive issue. Ian Lace