COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: A Sea Symphony
PERFORMER: Amanda Roocroft (soprano)Thomas Hampson (baritone)BBC SO & Chorus/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94550-2 DDD
Putting together an ideal recording of Vaughan Williams’s first great symphonic essay is no easy task. The huge, burgeoning structures of the first and last movements test a conductor’s formal grasp to the utmost, while the wide range of orchestral, choral and solo textures pose considerable engineering problems. Add to this the difficulty of assembling the right team of artists, and one begins to see why recordings have often failed the ultimate test.
The present issue comes as near as any to that expressive ideal, and a prime factor in its success is Davis’s enthusiastic and commanding grasp of Vaughan Williams’s richly proliferating forms. The extended build-up to the finale’s central climax, for instance, which can elude the most sympathetic interpreter, is here superbly achieved, and long-range rhythmic control is always in evidence.
Davis draws from his BBC orchestral and choral forces the most elated singing and playing, and, with something like an ideal recorded sound, which yields a warm sonority without over-reverberance and blends textures while differentiating where necessary, Vaughan Williams’s grand vision comes tinglingly alive. The soloists, too, are outstanding, Roocroft an incisive soprano, and Hampson among the finest baritones I’ve heard in the work.