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These are two of Vaughan Williams's greatest symphonies. (Some think his Fifth is his best.) The Third Symphony (1922), subtitled "The Pastoral Symphony," brings to mind the lush imagery of the English countryside and is filled with heartbreaking melodies. (It was written in part while the composer was in the service in WWI.) His Fifth Symphony (1943) is an outgrowth of the music from his great opera, The Pilgrim's Progress, eventually published in 1951. In part, the symphony is a return to his warmer style, a turn away from the acerbic Fourth Symphony, which the public hated. And, yes, it probably is his greatest symphony. --Paul Cook
Top Customer Reviews
OK, maybe I'm mediocre too (and I'd be perfectly happy to be as mediocre as Anthony Burgess!). But I STILL consider Vaughan Williams one of the most remarkable composers of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most consistently delightful. His Third (Pastoral) and Fifth Symphonies have a soulful richness and luminosity few 20th-century works can match, and it's hard to imagine finer or more idiomatic versions of them than those conducted by the late Sir Adrian Boult. Particularly at its mid-level price, this CD is a must for anyone interested in English music.
The Third symphony (Pastoral) also has a similar feeling of reflection. It is odd that it was written in France during the First World War while Vaughan Williams was in the ambulance corps. I think of it as hearkening back to a time before the war when the French countryside, now blasted by shells, was a peaceful place.
These recordings are among the best conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, and although they date from the early 1950s they have been so beautifully remastered that it will not matter they are not digital recordings. The subtle orchestral shadings in both symphonies are magical and have rarely been caught so precisely. A must for those interested in Vaughan Williamsï¿½s music.
However, time and age intervene, as they are apt to do, and our vision widens, our experience broadens, life, with its diverse pleasure and pain, enables us or forces us to open ourselves even further. Thus I came to VW's Symphonies No.'s 3 and 5, not because I had never heard them or owned them. To the contrary, I collected three complete sets of the VW Symphonies, in my LP days, the Boult included; but I never REALLY heard them. And these two symphonies in particular never really "touched" me... barely even listened to them... until now, years and years later.
Now they float over my soul like the dusk of a late autumn afternoon--- when my heart is filled with the wonder and puzzlement of seasons, years, decades gone by--- and the spirit, too, admits that the evening shadows are indeed growing longer and suddenly the sense of things past becomes an intense, yearning nostalgia. [I wish that in my twenties I had had, emotionally, what I do now in my early fifties--- and the wisdom to go hand-in-hand with it! But those regrets are better left for another time.Read more ›