COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: The Wasps Overture; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; In the Fen Country; Variations for Orchestra; Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1; Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 442 427-2 DDD
One of Philips’s rare but welcome issues of British music that should help to promote RVW more strongly in continental Europe. It opens with a sturdy Wasps Overture propelled along with great alacrity; though the end recapitulation, in counterpoint, of the big Romantic tune is rather shrill and cool. The Tallis Fantasia is finely judged and noble with all the parts and every nuance beautifully placed and completely audible; a splendid performance, contrasting well the ethereal and the exultant, that approaches the classic Barbirolli reading.
The two Fenland portraits are very successful, Marriner not only strongly evoking the brooding, mist-shrouded flat expanses but also expressing the folksong elements of the scores with great warmth and affection. The opening of the Norfolk Rhapsody is particularly magical in his hands.
The rare item in this programme is the Variations for Orchestra, composed as a test piece for the National Brass Band Championship in 1957 shortly before RVW’s death. This is the version for orchestra by that fine and sensitive orchestrator Gordon Jacob. It contrasts wit and vigour with the devotions of the Fifth Symphony. A warm, glowing reading of the lovely Dives and Lazarus Variations rounds off an attractive issue.