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Pastoral Symphony/ Norfolk Rha Hybrid SACD

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1. Norfolk Rhapsody No. 2 In D Minor - Larghetto-Allegro-Molto Tranquillo
2. I. Molto Moderato-Poco Tranquillo-Tempo I-Largamente-Tempo I
3. II. Lento Moderato-Poco Tranquillo, Tempo Rubato-Tempo I
4. III. Moderato Pesante-Poco Animato-A Tempo-Presto
5. IV. Lento-Moderato Maestoso-Animato-Poco Piu Lento- Tempo I
6. The Running Set - Presto
7. Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 In E Minor - Adagio-Allegro Vivace-Tempo I (Lento)

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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A darker than usual "Pastoral"? Jan. 13 2014
By Long-time listener - Published on Amazon.com
The picture on the cover here is appropriate: a sunset behind a line of WWI soldiers trudging across the landscape. Vaughan Williams spoke of how, as an ambulance driver in WWI, he would stop in the evening and gaze at the sunset, and the symphony evokes not just English pastoral pastels, but the sadness of war and the intense desire for a haven of peace within (or after) it. This CD received attention in Stereophile magazine, not just for being beautifully recorded, but for evoking the darker wartime ambiance that Vaughan Williams presumably had in mind beyond mere English pastoral beauty. The symphony contains many moods.

Hickox's interpretive choices serve the music well, and his is likely the best among recent digital recordings. It may be that the introspection and mystery of much of Vaughan Williams' music makes it ideal for listening at home, rather than when seated in a concert hall and distracted by bright lighting and other concertgoers. Pastoral nature music does not do well in a concert hall environment.

The only recording I know of that I can say is better than this is Andre Previn's, with the London Symphony. Previn carefully shapes and sculpts this music, which can easily sound amorphous and directionless. We hear more clearly its themes, paragraphs, and larger structures; his long, unhurried lines allow the music to unfold with utmost naturalness, yet the scherzo still has plenty of energy and a sense of suppressed power. Previn's recording, however, dates from the '70s and sounds a little dry today, but on many systems will still sound quite good. I recall that Thomson's was also good, but haven't heard it lately; Boult's is perfunctory, with poor sound; Haitink's is also rather perfunctory.

For those capable of appreciating the subtle moods and effects of music like this, Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony has always been and will always be a highly popular work.
Vaughan Williams CD June 26 2014
By DDP - Published on Amazon.com
This is a lovely symphony that is gaining respect as a statement on the loss and memory of WWI--highly recommended and Evans is a wonderful soloist, too....
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great RVW! April 18 2009
By Neaklaus - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This SACD of Ralph Vaughan Williams works including the Symphony no. 3

features the premier recording of the Norfolk Rhapsody no. 2, which was

the Second of Three Rhapsodies that RVW composed intending to create a

Norfolk Symphony. Unfortunatly it never came off, and the Third Rhapsody

is lost to us. Richard Hickox and the LSO along with Soprano Rebecca

Evans deliver a very beautiful performance of the Symphony no. 3

Mr. Hickox and the LSO also bring us wonderful performances of the Norfolk

Rhapsody no. 1, and "The Running Set" The Symphony called "The Pastorale"

was RVW's way of trying to let the listener in on his thoughts and feelings concering

WWI were he served as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France.

I can easily recommend this recording as well as the other ones by

Mr. Hickox and the LSO of the Symphonies, and other works of RVW on the Chandos label.

These performances are a most welcome addition to the catalog.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Even if A Pastoral Symphony doesn't win you over, Hickox and the LSO are exemplary Jan. 10 2013
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
A Pastoral Symphony evokes almost a single mood, that of a certain grey English landscape, or so it struck the composer-critic Constant Lambert. Not a flattering remark, but this extreme example of bucolic calm taxed even lovers of the English pastoral style. For that reason, Sym. #3 - the number was added later, as it was to A Sea Symphony and A London Symphony - isn't popular. So it was canny of Chandos and Richard Hickox to add a few enticements.

The Norfolk Rhapsody no. 2 existed in fragments; this is the premiere recording of a reassembled version, around 8 min. long, that has no particular distinction. Better material was included in the First Norfolk Rhapsody - both are based on the composer's gathering of folk songs in Norfolk. The prevailing mood in both tends to be gentle and melancholy, but the First Rhapsody offers some dramatic contrast in a fast section, swelling to a moving climax. Even so, not much variety is offered since the symphony is in the same bucolic vein. The Runner's Set, though, is quick and jolly, being a set of jigs drawn from folk sources. In any event, the fillers are unusual enough, I imagine, to attract RVW fanciers. They are played beautifully, in very good sound.

As for A Pastoral Symphony, I confess that I can't tell one performance from another. The pastel wash remains much the same throughout, as in Delius but lacking Delius's intriguing harmonies. The Wikipedia article informs us that RVW was inspired to write the symphony while serving as a private in the medical corps in France during WW I. He heard a distant bugler play the interval of a seventh - a very small seed of an idea, I must say - and in the finished work there's a trumpet solo in the second movement in tribute to that moment. The symphony can be taken as an elegy of the peace that follows strife; there is no wartime program as such.

When revisiting pieces that I don't get, I keep oping that my interest will be piqued. That distant trumpet solo is certainly evocative. The heavy-footed Scherzo has a modal theme that sticks in the mind. It alternates with some martial music reminiscent of other imperial-sounding marches from that era (the symphony was premiered in 1922). The slow finale features a pentatnoic theme (black keys on the piano) vocalized by a wordless soprano. But in the end, the gray impression that this symphony leaves behind, despite some very adroit handling of its single mood, is due to its lack of melodies. RVW had a strong melodic gift, but he set it aside to accomplish something more abstract - and harder to embrace.

Because of the lovely playing, assured conducting, and excellent sound (as heard in two-channel stereo), I can see why this program from Hickox and the LSO could be a first choice in the symphony.
buy this and listen to it Aug. 19 2014
By Robert and Jo Anna Oldani - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
hauntingly beautiful piece...highly, highly recocmmend