VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: “The Solent” = var. works incl. two world premieres – Soloists/ Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch. /Paul Daniel – Albion

by | Jan 1, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: “The Solent” = Three Impressions for Orchestra; Songs of Travel (Book 1) for Baritone and Orchestra; Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Strings; Incidental Music to The Mayor of Casterbridge; Prelude on an Old Carol Tune – Andrew Kennedy (tenor)/ Roland Wood (baritone)/ The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch. /Paul Daniel – Albion ALBCD016 57:12 (11/12/13) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

I like almost anything by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and this collection with some never before recorded works is no exception. The recording spans 50 years of William’s career, with a piece written when Vaughan Williams was 30 and another when he was 80.

Of particular note is the world premiere recording of Three Impressions for Orchestra, one of which is The Solent, a piece dating from the 1900s that reminds me of William’s In the Fen Country. Another premier piece is incidental music from the radio drama of Thomas Hardy’s novel, the Mayor of Casterbridge.

In addition to the instrumental works, there are also some vocal tracks, including the three sections of Songs of Travel, Book 1, along with Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola, Obbligato and Strings. The disc concludes with Prelude on an Old Carol Tune.

The works are sure to please any Vaughan Williams fan, and there are many. The performance by The Royal Liverpool Orchestra is exemplary and the vocalists can’t be faulted.  The recording was sponsored by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, which was born in 1994. It’s dedicated to recording his music, and the society sponsors seminars and research.

The disc was recorded at the Friary in Liverpool. The sound is warm and beautifully matches the music on offer.  The world premier tracks are the real draw of this CD, and one can hear echoes of other Vaughan Williams works in these pieces; yet each stands alone as a unique and worthwhile musical experience.

If I have any complaint, it is the mixture of vocal pieces and purely instrumental works. I generally don’t like to combine a disc with both in one sitting, but it is a small nit to pick with such an excellent and welcome disc.

—Mel Martin