VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Job; Symphony No. 9 – Andrew Davis/ Bergen Philharmonic – Chandos

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Job; Symphony No. 9 – Andrew Davis/ Bergen Philharmonic – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5180, 77:29 (2/17/17) ****:

Davis returns to Vaughan Williams in a fine performance and recording.

This new recording from Chandos couples a stunning performance and recording of two of Vaughan Williams’ great works. This is not the first time these compositions, conducted by Andrew Davis, have been on CD. He recorded the pair for Teldec in the ‘90s with the BBC Symphony.

The first work, Job: A Masque for Dancing, has a scenario by Geoffrey Keynes based on William Blake’s illustrations of the Old Testament Book of Job. The score was first performed in concert in 1930.  Some consider it Williams’ greatest orchestral creation and I wouldn’t argue with that sentiment.

The piece is richly orchestrated, and the Bergen Philharmonic is precise and dynamic. The recording captures the glorious sound of the Bergen Cathedral, with its fine organ making an appearance on track 7.

The Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 9 is also a pleasure to hear. It was the last symphony Williams composed, but it is strong and defiant in nature. It was premiered in London in 1958. Williams was clearly thinking of his mortality and his triumphant career. There are hints of the composer’s Symphony No. 1 (Sea Symphony) in the first movement of the 9th.

The 9th has a standard complement of instruments, but Williams’ notes called for the addition of three saxophones and a Fluegelhorn, and Andrew Davis accommodated those instructions.

This is that happy marriage of inspired performance and superb recording. I think the Job may be the big selling point for many buyers, but the Ninth Symphony is as good a performance and recording as I’ve heard. Some prefer the older Davis recording with the BBC, but I think this is the superior disc.  Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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