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Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony
“It was during the summer of 1911 that George Butterworth, whose enchanting 1913 idyll, The Banks of Green Willow, comprises the achingly poignant curtainraiser here, first suggested to Vaughan Williams that he should write a purely orchestral symphony.
VW dug out some sketches h'd made for a symphonic poem about London, while at the same time deriving fruitful inspiration from HG Wells's 1908 novel, Tono-Bungay. Geoffrey Toye gave the successful Queen's Hall premiere in March 1914, and VW subsequently dedicated the score to Butterworth's memory.
Over the next two decades or so, the work underwent three revisions (including much judicious pruning) and was published twice (in 1920 and 1936). In his compelling 1941 recording with the Cincinnati SO, Eugene Goossens employed the 1920 version, which adds about three minutes of music to that definitive 1936 'revised edition'. Now Richard Hickox at long last gives us the chance to hear VW's original, hour-long canvas – and riveting listening it makes too! Whereas the opening movement is as we know it today, the ensuing, expanded Lento acquires an intriguingly mournful, even worldweary demeanour. Unnervingly, the ecstatic full flowering of that glorious E major Largamente idea, first heard at fig F in the final revision, never materialises, and the skies glower menacingly thereafter. Towards the end of the Scherzo comes a haunting episode that Arnold Bax was particularly sad to see cut ('a mysterious passage of strange and fascinating cacophony' was how he described it). The finale, too, contains a wealth of additional material, most strikingly a liturgical theme of wondrous lyrical beauty, and, in the epilogue, a gripping paragraph that looks back to the work's introduction as well as forward to the first movement of A Pastoral Symphony. Sprawling it may be, but this epic conception evinces a prodigal inventiveness, poetry, mystery and vitality that do not pall with repeated hearings. Hickox and the LSO respond with an unquenchable spirit, generous flexibility and tender affection that suit VW's ambitious inspiration to a T, and Chandos's sound is big and bold to match. An essential purchase for anyone remotely interested in British music.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra have come up with a recording that you can cheerfully measure against most others in the catalogue, before you consider its unique extra charms!” John Armstrong, bbc.co.uk, 20th November 2002
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Trois Histoires Sacrees
“French countertenor Gérard Lesne and Il Seminario Musicale manage to bring Charpentier's three miniature oratorios vividly to life. The works employ narrators – sometimes a solo voice, sometimes the chorus – in a highly dramatic series of instrumental and vocal movements, carefully tinged with suspensions and chromatic inflections. Both Mors Saülis etJonathae and Sacrificium Abrahae rely on tightly constructed dialogues cast in recitative. Lesne intensifies the characterisation by associating particular combinations of continuo instruments and organ stops with each of the interlocutors.
Melodic, melismatic movements are reserved for moments of powerful emotion, as when David weeps for his brother Saül.
Although Il Seminario Musicale take pride in performing without a conductor, they wouldn't produce the precision of ensemble so evident in this recording but for the vigilance of the continuo players. The absence of a principal interpreter is audible and here, as in less complex chamber music, the effect is highly desirable.
Lesne delivers a string of inspiring performances in a raft of roles – as do Jean-François Novelli as David and Abraham and the bass Raimonds Spogis as Samuel.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Lebrun - Oboe Concertos Volume 1
“If relatively little interest has been shown in Lebrun before, perhaps that is because it is hard to imagine him
ever having been performed as well as he is here. Playing a modern oboe, Bart Schneemann mixes creamy
smoothness with nimble articulation, negotiating Lebrun’s high notes without damage to tone or poise, and
breathing an exquisite lyricism in the slow movements. Such is his finely detailed musicianship that he can even
rescue those weaker passages that might otherwise fall flat.”
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