Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony; Sinfonia antartica

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Teldec British Line
WORKS: A Pastoral Symphony; Sinfonia antartica
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario (soprano)BBC SO & Chorus/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-13139-2
Vaughan Williams’s visionary range is captured in this coupling of symphonies inspired by Antarctic exploration and the First World War.

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The Sinfonia antartica needs to sound magnificent, and it certainly does so here. The balancing of solo soprano, chorus and orchestra is excellent, while the dynamic range is wide, allowing for atmosphere and sheer power to make their point. Davis holds the work together with masterly control, reconciling pictorial images and symphonic development, and opting to perform the music without narrator.

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The Pastoral, not an English landscape but rather VW’s war requiem, is one of his most penetrating and visionary scores. Davis starts promisingly, with particularly sensitive attention to dynamics. However, the most celebrated moment in the work is a disappointment. The cadenza for valveless trumpet, the most haunting musical image of the Great War, is recessed, even self-effacing. Nor does the powerful third movement generate the momentum it might, though the darting coda is beautifully atmospheric. In the finale the ‘angel-image’ of the wordless soprano is beautifully realised; Patricia Rozario is in radiant voice, sensitively positioned in the perspective. Terry Barfoot