COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Symphony No. 9; Job – A Masque for Dancing
PERFORMER: BBC SO/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98463-2
Vaughan Williams wrote nothing finer than Job, which lies at the centre of his output both chronologicallyand stylistically. The full range of his musical personality is contained within its masterly structure, which often uses old dance forms, hence its subtitle ‘A Masque for Dancing’. The orchestra is large and the sonic effects are spectacular. The sound is beautifully balanced, natural and clear, the details always audible but never spotlit. With glorious playing, the ‘Sarabande of the Sons of God’ attains a broad nobility; but some of the more dramatic aspects seem under-characterised. ‘Satan’s Dance’ offers too little rhythmic emphasis despite its terrific momentum, while the saxophones of ‘Job’s Comforters’ sound matter-of-fact. Yet there are many compensations: the climax following ‘Job’s Curse’ generates a shattering intensity, the quiet strings of the Epilogue are wonderfully effective.
Symphony No. 9 is a visionary masterpiece from the composer’s last year. The unusual scoring features prominent parts for saxophones and flugelhorn, and the superbly layered opening chord confirms that VW always created a very special sound. Davis keeps a firm grip on the symphonic argument, and makes a strong case for this neglected work to be given a wider currency. Terry Barfoot