Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

This page lists all recordings of Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony', by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) on CD, SACD & download (MP3 & FLAC). Generally, more recent releases are listed first, but with priority given to those that are in stock.

Having made some sketches for a symphonic poem about London, Vaughan Williams was encouraged by George Butterworth to write a full symphony, and adapted these initial sketches into his London Symphony.

Vaughan Williams continued to revise the piece for many years, yet for all his changes it remained “the symphony he himself liked best of his nine”, as he told Sir John Barbirolli.

Although not strictly programmatic (Vaughan Williams suggested it would have been better titled “Symphony by a Londoner"), the work still depicts various London scenes, including the Westminster chimes, the street cries of flower sellers, and also some of the grimmer aspects of city life.

The symphony ends with the rippling of the Thames carrying the audience away from the bustling city.

Recommendations

Orchestral Choice
July 2016
First Choice
November 2016
Also Recommended
November 2016
Also Recommended
November 2016
Also Recommended
November 2016
Editor's Choice
July 2001
RosetteRosetteRosetteFinalist

All recordings

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Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Vol. 1

Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Vol. 1


Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

Symphony No. 8 in D minor


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

Andrew Manze has established himself as one of the leading interpreters of Vaughan Williams Symphonies. His 2012 BBC Proms performances drew critical acclaim, and were highlights of that season's Proms. ONYX Classics will release one volume a year, completing the cycle in the spring of 2019 with Symphonies 7&9. It was RWV’s friend and fellow composer George Butterworth who in 1912 suggested he write a purely orchestral symphony. RVW told him he had absolutely no plans to do so, but Butterworth was a very perceptive friend and colleague, and the premiere took place in 1914. Called ‘A London Symphony’ (RVW considered himself a Londoner), RVW thought a better title would be ‘A Symphony by a Londoner’. On New Year’s Eve that year RVW joined the army and went to the trenches in France. Butterworth would be killed by a sniper at the Somme in 1916. The 8th Symphony of 1955 is a tightly written, brilliant and innovative work that shows RVW’s creativity at full stretch. Although outwardly a sunny work, shadows of the 6th and 7th symphonies lurk in the background at points throughout this brilliant symphony.

Next in the RVW Symphony cycle from Andrew Manze and the RLPO will be Symphonies 3 & 4 [ONYX4161] to be released in March 2017.

“Manze keeps a tight rein but lets the music blossom. The RLPO and its excellent soloists make a warm, lustrous sound.” The Guardian, 24th April 2016 ****

“Vaughan Williams' orchestration is fantastically colourful – he had studied with Ravel a few years previously, and clearly took great inspiration from him both in terms of harmony and in terms of instrumentation – and Manze brings its subtleties out in a way I've never heard anyone else quite manage before.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 8th April 2016

“Remove the encrusted nostalgia for yesteryear that we normally hear in today’s performances and you have Andrew Manze’s virile and colourful account of the Second Symphony, London here bustling with colourful vitality.Tempos are unusually brisk in the outer movements, his wide dynamic range magically capturing the pianissimo passages elsewhere.” Yorkshire Evening Post, 29th April 2016

“Manze’s agreeably vigilant reading of A London Symphony brings much to admire in its clean-cut, unexaggerated demeanour…and the spruce performance of the Eighth likewise reveals Manze as a stylish and committed interpreter. In the ravishing Cavatina for strings alone…[offers] heartwarming lyricism” Gramophone Magazine, June 2016

“if you don't know RVW's A London Symphony and Eighth Symphony, these performances – by turns passionate, dramatic and clear-sighted –would make an ideal introduction. The characteristics of both works are formidably presented, and Manze's unfussy and strong direction is just what is needed.” Classical Ear, 19th May 2016 *****

“This is expressive and atmospheric playing, rarely heard since Boult.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2016

“Manze might be best known as a Baroque specialist, but his Vaughan Williams is as charismatic and affectionate as any on disc...Exquisite played by the RLPO strings too. Manze never puts a foot wrong … Tremendous music and a really recommendable, enjoyable disc.” The Arts Desk, 28th May 2016

“All in all these are terrific performances and convincing interpretations … I can’t wait for the next instalment.” MusicWeb International, June 2016

Presto Disc of the Week

8th April 2016

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - July 2016

Onyx - ONYX4155

(CD)

$15.00

(Sorry, download not available in your country)

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Two Pianos

Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Two Pianos

and version of the Sea Symphony for two pianos and orchestra


Vaughan Williams:

Piano Concerto in C for two pianos

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

version for two pianos and orchestra by Joseph Cooper in collaboration with the composer


This enthralling Vaughan Williams programme couples two wonderful alternative versions of great works. Vaughan Williams’s two-piano version of his craggy Piano Concerto reinforces its standing as in many ways the link between the Third and Fourth Symphonies. Here the barnstorming piano team of John Lenehan and Leon McCawley with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Martin Yates are thrilling in their traverse of this cherishable score. The programme is completed by the 1920 version of A London Symphony, not recorded since Goossens’s wartime 78s. Here, for the first time in modern sound, we have the opportunity of exploring those various moments that RVW deleted from the version generally played.

“At times we miss the focused punch of one piano's combat with the orchestra…yet 20 fingers certainly bring a heightened percussive charge in the final section's 'fuga chromatica'. Either way it remains an idiosyncratic and fruitful work…Martin Yates and the Scottish National Orchestra sound equally at home in the atmospheric panorama of A London Symphony.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

“This is the first recording of [A London Symphony[ in its initial 1920 publication since Eugene Goossens's notable 1941 account…fascinating listening it makes, too, containing numerous subtle differences in orchestration…Martin Yates's conception is by no means devoid of spirit or fresh-faced observation…and he secures a characteristically big-hearted, sprightly response from the RSNO…here is an issue that many collectors will rightly find of great interest.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

Super Audio CD

Format:

unknown

Dutton Epoch - CDLX7322

(SACD)

$14.75

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony & Oboe Concerto

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony & Oboe Concerto


Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

Oboe Concerto in A minor

Stéphane Rancourt (oboe)


Hallé returns with a disc of Vaughan Williams in works chosen to illustrate the full range of colour and highly accomplished playing of the award winning ensemble under its Musical Director, Sir Mark Elder.

Latest release for award winning label in the English repertoire at which it excels.

Features Hallé Principal Oboist Stéphane Rancourt as soloist.

The London Symphony and Oboe Concerto were both personal favourites of the composer and contain some of his finest writing.

Vaughan Williams claimed that the Symphony should “stand or fall as ‘absolute’ music” but, as Michael Kennedy says in the authoritative note which accompanies the disc, in this work direct references to “street cries, the Abbey chimes, the Cockney’s mouth-organ and accordion, are raised to the level of great art. “

The Concerto for Oboe and Strings contains virtuosic writing for the soloist, against exquisite string writing, in a work whose early material derived from sketches the composer had prepared for the Scherzo of his 5th Symphony.

“Elder conducts the standard revision of the score, as published in the 1930s...Both the introduction to the first movement and the introspective slow movement are beautifully judged by Elder and the Hallé string, while the deftness with which he touches the detail of the rather discursive scherzo shows masterly tact.” The Guardian, 6th October 2011 ****

“[Elder and the Hallé Orchestra ] are especially effective in the mysterious slow movement, though the Cockney high spirits of the scherzo are also vividly captured, and Stéphane Rancourt’s gentle musicianship adds an ethereal touch to the Oboe Concerto.” Financial Times, 22nd October 2011 ****

“Sir Mark Elder’s live reading [of the London Symphony] is polished to perfection, affectionate but never indulgent, and with a satisfying warmth to the Hallé’s string sound...[The Oboe Concerto is] finely played by the orchestra’s principal oboe, Stéphane Rancourt, relishing the music’s gentle melancholy.” The Arts Desk, 7th January 2012

“The throw themselves so fully into the texture and colour of the piece it becomes almost visual - captured are not only the hansom cabs, street-sellers' cries, Cockney mouth organs and accordions explicitly dictated by the composer, but also the less tangible moods and tempos of the city...Rancourt copes excellently with the virtuoso challenges of the Oboe Concerto.” Classic FM Magazine, February 2012 ****

“The orchestra’s music director stakes his claim as the country’s foremost Vaughan Williamsian...Elder’s tempos are uncannily close to those of his Hallé predecessor Barbirolli — if Elder is less expansive and indulgent in the great lento, their finales come in at exactly the same timings...Rancourt makes the strongest case I have heard for the attractively tuneful Oboe Concerto with his powerful, almost trumpet-like tone.” Sunday Times, 22nd January 2012

Hallé Elder Vaughan Williams Series - CDHLL7529

(CD)

$14.75

(also available to download from $10.00)

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Autumn

Autumn

A collection of seasonal classics


Berlioz:

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 - Dream of a Witches' Sabbath

Delius:

Late Swallows

Gunning:

Autumn Festival from Yorkshire Glory

Handel:

Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV351: La Réjouissance

Liadov:

Baba-Yaga, Op. 56

The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62

MacCunn:

Harvest Dance from Highland Memories, Op. 30

Prokofiev:

Autumnal sketch, Op. 8

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

Bloomsbury Square on a November Afternoon

Vivaldi:

The Four Seasons: Autumn, RV293


Presto CD

Resonance - CDRSN3074

(Presto CD)

$15.00

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony', etc.

Butterworth, G:

The Banks of Green Willow

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

original 1913 version


Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

Chandos - CHSA5001

(SACD)

$15.00

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony


Butterworth, G:

The Banks of Green Willow

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

original 1913 version


“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

“Hickox and the LSO strike again in this award-winning recording, which turns back the clock on the various revisions to the symphony and presents the original 1913 version.” David Smith, Presto Classical, June 2014

Presto Disc of the Week

1st December 2008

GGramophone Awards 2001

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2001

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Building a Library

Also Recommended - November 2016

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Chandos - CHAN9902

(CD)

Normally: $15.00

Special: $12.00

(also available to download from $10.00)

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony


Elgar:

Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40 'In London Town'

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'


Presto CD

ASV Quicksilva - CDQS6162

(Presto CD)

$15.00

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 2

Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 2


Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

The Wasps Overture


“Bakels draws ravishing sounds from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, notably the strings…A thrilling experience…this is a performance to stimulate the ear.” Penguin Guide

Naxos - 8550734

(CD)

$7.25

(also available to download from $7.00)

In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony

& other works


Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

1920 version

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sound sleep

Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Mary Bevan (soprano), Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano)

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Orpheus With His Lute

Elizabeth Watts (soprano)

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Variations for Brass Band

Royal College of Music Brass Band


Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony (the composer’s favourite of the nine) makes a rare appearance in its 1920 first publication. Three lesser-known works complete a highly desirable programme, while Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra understand how this music should be played like few others. This is mandatory listening.

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Hyperion & Helios - up to 50% off

Hyperion - CDA68190

(CD)

Normally: $15.00

Special: $13.50

Scheduled for release on 27 October 2017. Order it now and we will deliver it as soon as it is available.

Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works & Elgar: Cello Concerto

Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works & Elgar: Cello Concerto


Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

André Navarra (cello)

Philharmonia Orchestra

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'

Hallé Orchestra

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Sinfonia of London

Fantasia on Greensleeves

Sinfonia of London

Symphony No. 5 in D major

Philharmonia Orchestra


Urania Widescreen Collection - WS121160

Download only from $20.00

Available now to download.

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