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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4 – Andrew Staples, Rhys Owens, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Manze – ONYX

2 very finely played and recorded Vaughan Williams Symphonies

B06VT5RT11  VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 3 ‘A Pastoral Symphony’ (1921) Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1934) – Andrew Staples (tenor), Rhys Owens (natural trumpet), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Manze – ONYX CD 4161 TT:68:49 (4/21/17) ****

From Onyx we have a continuation of their notable Vaughan Williams cycle on CD. Conductor Andrew Manze is getting excellent notices for his interpretations, and this new recording of the Vaughan Williams 3rd and 4th symphonies are going to enhance that reputation.

The two symphonies are very different in mood. The Pastoral Symphony is just that, while the Symphony no. 4 is dissonant and angry. It’s often been attributed to Williams contempt for war and a prediction, perhaps, or WWII, but the composer has disavowed those observations.

The Pastoral is unique for using a tenor soloist in the last movement, it’s usually a soprano, but Williams himself specified either a soprano or a tenor. Here it’s the fine voice of Andrew Staples.

These are very fine performances, with the Pastoral taken a bit slower than my audio memory recalls for other performances, but I found no fault with that choice.

The more dynamic Symphony no. 4 is also played exceedingly well.

The recording is quite good, having been done at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, a venue well suited to this kind music. Small details in the orchestra are very clear, yet when things get loud in the 4th I find no evidence of compression or distortion.

I very much liked these Manze recordings, and am enthusiastic for more in this Vaughan Williams cycle. There are plenty of excellent Vaughan Williams discs to listen to, including the Previn and of course the Boult, but Manze is doing very well with this cycle and I recommend it for the musicianship on offer and a very fine recording.

—Mel Martin

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