VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 5 in D Major (1943); Dona Nobis Pacem – Renee Flynn, soprano/Roy Henderson, baritone/ BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/ Ralph Vaughan Williams – Somm

by | Mar 7, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 5 in D Major (1943); Dona Nobis Pacem – Renee Flynn, soprano/Roy Henderson, baritone/ BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Ralph Vaughan Williams

Somm CD 071,  72:04  (Distrib. Albany) ****:

Recorded off the air during a London Prom Concert at Royal Albert Hall, 3 September 1952, this premier appearance of the composer leading a gratifying realization of his bucolic Fifth Symphony owes its existence to recording engineer Eric Spain, who transcribed the live broadcast to acetate long-playing records. Vaughan Williams came to the podium for the second half of a program featuring conductor Basil Cameron in music of Elgar (Introduction and Allegro) and Rawsthorne (Second Piano Concerto, with Louis Kentner). Though in somewhat faded sound, the elegiac and ceremonial nobility of the occasion comes through; perhaps nowhere more profoundly than in the Lento, where the solo violin, viola, and French horn add their colorist touches to a moment of hearty serenity. The last movement, an urgent passacaglia, the brass shimmering atop a host of stratified figures, followed by sea-shanty type jaunts and long-held pedal points. Both committed and eloquent, the last movement achieves a splendidly full sonority, the rolling figures and string suspensions ushering the long-ago-and-far-away affect of the opening Preludio. A noble performance of a fine, exhilarating piece of music.

Vaughan Williams conceived his 1936 (rec. November 1936) Dona Nobis Pacem as a plea for peace in five parts, the words of “Beat! Beat! Drums,” “Reconciliation,” and “Dirge for Two Veterans” taken from poetry of Walt Whitman.  The opening Agnus Dei finds us enthralled by Renee Flynn’s piercing soprano. The overwhelming futility of war was in the air of the times, as we recall in the H.G. Wells’ sci-fi movie, The Shape of Things to Come.  Roy Henderson laments “all those deeds of carnage” with requisite pathos in his clearly enunciated tones. Whitman calls his “enemy” a “man as divine as myself.” The music and the lyrics well adumbrate Britten’s War Requiem. Even in 1936 sonics, the heartfelt melancholy and tender sincerity of the elegy prove emotionally shattering. “We look for peace” intone the singers in the final movement, but have we yet found it?

 
[We just reviewed an excellent DVD bio of Vaughan Williams…Ed.]

– -Gary Lemco
 

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01