Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis; Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1; In the Fen Country; Fantasia on Greensleeves; Concerto grosso

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis; Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1; In the Fen Country; Fantasia on Greensleeves; Concerto grosso
PERFORMER: New Zealand SO/James Judd
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555867
‘Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Favourites’, Naxos labels the spine of this disc. Well, here indeed are the famous Tallis Fantasia for strings of 1910, and the equally well loved operatic intermezzo based on ‘Greensleeves’. But here, too, are the first Norfolk Rhapsody of 1906, an early and successful attempt to weave folk tunes into a concert piece, and the even earlier (and less specifically folky) In the Fen Country. And, most enterprisingly, here is the little-known Concerto grosso of 1950 for massed amateur strings: a work weakened by its need to accommodate optional parts for beginners, though not without some good tunes.

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James Judd is refreshingly un-reverential in the Tallis Fantasia, pushing through the central development at close to the composer’s very fast metronome marks; and he paces the Norfolk Rhapsody and In the Fen Country with convincing flexibility. But the Intrada of the Concerto grosso, reprised at the end, is taken so fast that it loses its intended Corellian breadth. The New Zealand orchestra offers some expressive solo playing and a pleasing string sound – though the latter is not enhanced by an unatmospheric recording, and the second orchestra in the Tallis Fantasia is so distant that its violins are almost inaudible. Anthony Burton