Vaughan Williams Folk Songs

COMPOSERS: Ralph Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Dutton Epoch
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams Folk Songs
WORKS: Folk Songs for the Four Seasons; Dark Pastoral for cello & orchestra (completed by David matthews); Sernade in A minor; Bucolic Suite
PERFORMER: Guy Johnston (cello); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates


The first of these Vaughan Williams premiere recordings is the least interesting: an orchestral suite taken from the 1950 cantata Folk Songs of the Four Seasons, and consisting of sturdy but routine material.

Much more is offered by the four-movement Bucolic Suite, written in 1900, and showing how strong the young Vaughan Williams’s command of the orchestra already was, before folksong-collecting propelled his idiom towards true self-discovery; in the Suite’s Andante second movement the sound-world of In the Fen Country, still several years in the future, is even now coming through.

The five-movement Serenade of 1898, the composer’s first orchestral work, has an even lovelier creation in its Romance, with its dreamy opening clarinet solo (superbly played here).

The stand-out music, however, comes in Dark Pastoral. This is David Matthews’s wonderfully skilled and imaginative, yet always-in-style completion of the slow movement of an unfinished cello concerto, planned for Pablo Casals in the early 1940s. Guy Johnston’s playing is searchingly beautiful and accurate; and as in the other works, Yates and RSNO provide a quality contribution. There’s fine recorded sound, too, although Dark Pastoral has what seems to be a far too obvious edit between different takes (at 3:31).


Malcolm Hayes