COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Job; Variations for Orchestra (orch. Jacob); Prelude on an Old Carol Tune
PERFORMER: Munich SO/Douglas Bostock
CATALOGUE NO: CLASSCD 244
Bax’s Sixth Symphony is not only his symphonic masterwork but also one of his creative peaks. Bostock gives a powerful performance, propelling the music forward, but it suffers from a poor, thin and wiry string tone and his Lento is two-dimensional compared to the passion and sumptuous detail that Bryden Thomson reveals aided by brilliant Chandos sound engineering. Bostock also disappoints in the Epilogue, where he lacks that necessary ethereal poetry. Until Lyrita reissues Norman Del Mar’s stunning account of this symphony, the preferred recording, despite a certain lassitude, must be Thomson. Yet Bostock makes Tintagel’s wind and spray fly in a wild and thrilling, atmospheric reading. The rarity is Bax’s Overture to Adventure which is revealed as a swaggering swashbuckling romance with quieter, and sometimes darkly mysterious introspections.
Bostock’s view of Vaughan Williams’s Job is strong and convincing enough yet lacks some of the character that Lloyd-Jones brings to his Naxos recording (the wailing, moaning saxophones of Job’s comforters especially); and it misses the sheer power and brilliance that Boult used to bring to this work. The CD booklet’s helpful track-by-track analysis with precise timings allows the ‘plot’ to be easily followed.
The Prelude on an Old Carol Tune, from RVW’s music for a BBC radio serialisation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge makes the composer’s familiar folk music material sound powerful and intensely dramatic using some telling effects like icy tremolando strings.
Gordon Jacob as composer was featured in the first of this English Symphonic Collection series (reviewed by Terry Barfoot in November 1998); his orchestration of RVW’s Variations, originally composed for brass bands, adds lustre to rather less inspired material. Ian Lace