Vaughan Williams: Merciless Beauty

This page lists all recordings of Merciless Beauty, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC).

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Vaughan Williams: Songs

Vaughan Williams: Songs

Vaughan Williams:

Merciless Beauty

Searching for Lambs

Ten Blake Songs

Along the Field

On Wenlock Edge

The Lawyer

“The programme here has an identity of its own and as such is without competitors. Its 'theme' is to collect those of Vaughan Williams's songs which have something other than piano accompaniment.
On Wenlock Edge (1909) is for voice, piano and string quartet, Merciless Beauty (1921) with string trio, Along the Field (1927) and TwoEnglish Folksongs (published 1935 but of earlier date) voice and violin, and the Blake songs (1957) with oboe. Eligible for inclusion might have been Four Hymns (1914) with piano and viola, and perhaps The Willow Whistle (1939) for voice and pipe. The Three Vocalises of 1958, with clarinet, are specifically for soprano, but show the composer's continuing taste for such combinations right into the last year of his life. John Mark Ainsley sings with the sense of a civilised personal utterance, refined and restrained, yet capable of full-bodied tone and a ringing forte when needed: the cry 'O noisy bells, be dumb' is as emotional as an operatic climax and all the more effective for the exceptional frankness of its release. These are highly demanding pieces, the voice unremittingly exposed. He brings to them a fine poise, in breathing, phrasing, expression and the even emission of quite beautiful tone. He has also the considerable advantage of exceptional players to work with.
Individually admirable, they combine in OnWenlock Edge to give an unusually imaginative performance.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Building a Library

First Choice - March 2001

Hyperion - CDA67168



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Albion Archive Recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams

Albion Archive Recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams

Vaughan Williams:

Five Tudor Portraits

On Wenlock Edge

Merciless Beauty

Household Music


Ralph Vaughan Williams's talk on Bach – The Great Bourgeois

Sebastian String Quartet, Salvation Army International Staff Band & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, William Steinberg

These works are taken from the following archive sources:

On Wenlock Edge from Argo RG 20

Merciless Beauty from a broadcast on 28 May, 1960

Prelude on Three Welsh Hymn Tunes from the work’s first broadcast on 12 March, 1955

Five Tudor Portraits from Capitol Records CTL 7047, recorded live at the First Pittsburgh International Music Festival, 1952.

Bach; The Great Bourgeois was originally broadcast on 28th July, 1950

Front cover is a view of the Malvern Hills from a Victorian post-card.

Artists include Alexander Young, Nell Rankin, Robert. B. Anderson & Gordon Watson

“the performances win through: Young's delivery of On Wenlock Edge is tremendously moving, while pianist Gordon Watson and the Sebastian String Quartet capture the nuances of tonal colour resulting from RVW's studies under Ravel. The three Rondels of Merciless Beauty are similarly affecting” The Independent, 4th May 2012

“Although this was a live performance [of the Tudor Portraits] slips are few and there is a real feeling of a live occasion. Nell Rankin sings with real commitment as do the choir...[Young's] diction is faultless and he manages to avoid sounding self-pitying or simply feeble as do some of his rivals on disc...All in all this is a very welcome and imaginatively chosen selection of recordings which very much deserve resurrection.” MusicWeb International, August 2012

Albion Records - ALBCD014

(CD - 2 discs)


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Tempelhof: Horenstein Ensemble

Tempelhof: Horenstein Ensemble


Quintette for harp, flute, violin, viola and cello


Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, Op. 31


Introduction & Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet

Vaughan Williams:

Merciless Beauty

Fionnuala McCarthy (soprano)

Horenstein Ensemble

This is the debut album of the Horenstein Ensemble. All the musicians are members of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and strive to produce the best possible sound in their interpretations. All the works here were composed within 25 years of each other, but all are very individual and have different instrumentation.

“the members of the Horenstein give a performance [of the Cras] that would be thoroughly persuasive if the music itself were stronger...The Horenstein play [the Howells] beautifully, as they do Vaughan Williams's Merciless Beauty, with Fionnuala McCarthy as the sensitive soprano.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2012

Acousence - ACO10811

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Vaughan Williams & Warlock

Vaughan Williams & Warlock

Vaughan Williams:

Four Hymns

Merciless Beauty

The Water Mill

The New Ghost

Ten Blake Songs

On Wenlock Edge


Capriol Suite

Neville Dilkes


The Curlew

Bethlehem Down

I saw a fair maiden


Where riches is everlastingly

The Shrouding of the Duchess of Malfi

The Lady's Birthday

Pretty Ring Time

Autumn Twilight

Captain Stratton's Fancy

“Classic 1970s recordings by the Partridge siblings, and such luminaries as Janet Craxton. On Wenlock Edge - chamber version - still sounds excellent, while the Warlock disc is distinctly special.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2010 *****

Warner Classics British Composers - 9689392

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