Sunday, 8 February 2009

Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Cappella Music from All Hallows, Gospel Oak

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) A Cappella choral works: The Souls of the Righteous (1947) Greensleeves (1913?) Three Shakespeare Songs (Full Fathom Five; The Cloud-Capp'd Towers; Over Hill, Over Dale) (1951) Prayer to the Father of Heaven (1948) Mass in G minor (1922) O vos omnes (1922) Ca' the Yowes (1922) Love is a Sickness (1913) Three Elizabethan Part Songs (Sweet Day; The Willow Song; O mistress mine) (c.1899) Silence and Music (1953) Heart's Music (1954)
Laudibus are conducted by Mike Brewer. The music was recorded at All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London. DELPHIAN DCD34074

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing this fine album of a cappella music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I began by stating that “I cannot rate this CD too highly. From every possible angle it is an essential purchase for anyone who claims an interest in British music. Firstly, the singing is superb. Even allowing for my preference for an all-male choir such as Kings’ College Cambridge, in any performance of the Mass in G minor, I cannot fault this version in any way. Secondly the repertoire is brilliantly chosen. Laudibus have selected some exceptionally well known pieces – Ca’ the Yowes, Greensleeves and the Mass and have complemented them with works that are virtually discoveries – at least to me.

I was concerned to point out that this CD explores a number of trajectories within the composer’s output – “It is easy to fall into the trap of regarding Vaughan Williams as a ‘pastoral’ composer or perhaps someone whose music is derived solely from folk-song. These generalisations do however have some grounding in fact. One only needs to think of the interminable repetitions of the Lark Ascending, Greensleeves and the Folksong Suite on Classic FM. Yet this is not the whole truth. Even a cursory hearing of a cross-section of RVW’s music reveals a wide range of influences – folksong, yes, but also Tudor music, the impressionism of Wenlock Edge, the neo-classicism of the Concerto Accademico and perhaps the biting, almost Stravinskian, dissonances of the Fourth Symphony. The present CD explores a few of these trajectories, in a well-balanced programme.

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International

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