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Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Composer: Vaughan-Williams
  • Audio CD (Sept. 1 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ncl
  • ASIN: B00000AELD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,391 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Prelude: Andante maestoso - Lento - Poco animato - Piu mosso - Tranquillo - Andante moderato con moto - Largamente
2. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Scherzo: Moderato
3. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Landscape: Lento -
4. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Intermezzo: Andante sostenuto - Allegretto - Pesante - Tempo primo tranquillo
5. Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7): Epilogue: Alla marcia, moderato (non troppo allegro) - Andante maestoso
6. Symphony No. 8 In D Minor: Fantasia (Variazioni senza Tema): Moderato - Presto - Andante sostenuto - Allegretto - Andante non troppo - Allegro vivace - Andante sostenuto - Largamente - Tempo primo ma tranquillo
7. Symphony No. 8 In D Minor: Scherzo alla Marcia (per stromenti a fiato): Allegro alla marcia - Andante - Tempo primo
8. Symphony No. 8 In D Minor: Cavatina (per stromenti ad arco): Lento espressivo
9. Symphony No. 8 In D Minor: Toccata: Moderato maestoso
10. Movement Superscriptions For Sinfonia antartica: Prometheus Unbound: Prelude: 'To Suffer Woes Which Hope Thinks Infinite' (Percy Bysshe Shelley)
11. Movement Superscriptions For Sinfonia antartica: Book Of Common Prayer, Psalm 104: Schezro: 'There Go The Ships'
12. Movement Superscriptions For Sinfonia antartica: Hymn Before Sunrise, In The Vale Of Chamouni: Landscape: 'Ye Ice Falls!' (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
13. Movement Superscriptions For Sinfonia antartica: The Sun Rising: Intermezzo: 'Love, All Alike,' (John Donne)
14. Movement Superscriptions For Sinfonia antartica: Message To The Public: Epilogue: 'I Do Not Regret This Journey;' (Captain Robert Falcon Scott)

Product Description


Dutchman Kees Bakels presides over a notably clear-headed and consistently warm-hearted account of Vaughan Williams's breathtakingly evocative and stirring Sinfonia Antartica of 1952 (the Seventh of the composer's nine symphonies, drawn from material from his score for the 1949 Ealing film Scott of the Antarctic). With the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on impressive form--and fine contributions from the women from the Waynflete Singers, soprano Lynda Russell and organist Christopher Dowie (whose entry in the awesome central "Landscape" has plenty of tummy-wobbling grandeur)--Bakels's sympathetic reading generates a endearing cogency and (more important still) humanity. What's more, Naxos allow the listener to programme in separately the published superscriptions at the head of each movement: David Timson delivers the texts most eloquently. The Eighth Symphony (completed three years after its bigger brother here) also comes off well but is perhaps rather less memorable as an interpretation, and in the gorgeous "Cavatina" slow movement one tends to notice the marginal lack of refinement in the hard-working Bournemouth string section. All the same, if your budget won't extend to André Previn's identical LSO coupling on mid-price RCA Gold Seal, rest assured that this bargain-basement Naxos issue represents very decent value indeed. --Andrew Achenbach

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Format: Audio CD
The posthumous fate of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) has not always been a kind one. After his death, his music passed through a prolonged period of being deeply unfashionable. Stodgy, tweedy Vaughan Williams--who could get into that?! But, like Elgar, whose music is also cast in a stuffy, stereotypically "British" light, there is much more to Vaughan Williams than one might think.
First, the man was a superb melodist. He was not a mere tunesmith, to be sure, but crafted works that are primarily conceived in terms of melodic development, and this makes his work immediately appealing. Second, he was a highly original thinker who used his colossal technique (he had a doctorate in composition and studied with Ravel) for surprisingly modern ends. His music can at times sound like a mixture of Bach and Debussy, but it is always unmistakably Vaughan Williams. He had a penchant for modal counterpoint, and his streams of parallel chords place his work squarely in the 20th century.
Vaughan Williams' unique talent for scoring is evident throughout this excellent recording of his 7th and 8th symphonies. The "Sinfonia antartica" is based upon a film score he supplied for a film about the explorer Robert Scott. It is by turns brooding and wistful--an ideal introduction to this magnificent composer. Symphony No. 8 is a more eclectic affair, brighter in temperament overall, but a rewarding example of the surprises that lurk around every corner of RVW's work.
Was he the greatest symphonist of the 20th century? The jury's still out. He certainly created a body of symphonic work that is second to none in its richness, diversity, and consistency. Mahler, Sibelius, and Shostakovich are usually considered the most important symphonists of the last century, but for those who seek other fare, you can't do better than Vaughan Williams.
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I think many listeners (and reviewers) will focus more on the seventh symphony; so I leave the seventh to them, although I greatly enjoy this recording of the seventh, and am even modestly grateful that the recited superscriptions are included at the end, where they do not interrupt the sequence of the symphony itself.
The Vaughan Williams eighth symphony exhibits a few interesting parallels with the eighth symphony of the composer whose oeuvre established the "rule of nine" in the writing of symphonies: Beethoven.
Beethoven's Opus 93 strikes some listeners as both "a step backwards" from the rambunctious and expansive seventh (with its electrifying "double scherzo" and achingly intense theme-and-variations slow movement), and a mystification before the grandiose Opus 125. It is something of a look back towards Haydn; it is charming, and elegant, and seems to do entirely without the dramatic musical rhetoric of which Beethoven's third, fifth and seventh symphonies provide ample and potent illustration. It is the sort of thing which "musical progressivists" say we composers cannot do; you can almost hear the phrase spoken, "you can never go back."
Yet, in his eighth symphony, Beethoven succeeds, marvelously and musically; he does, and does not, "go back." Vaughan Williams does something of the same, in his eighth. Even though Vaughan Williams' seventh was composed originally as film music, and then adapted as a symphony in his 'cycle' (or perhaps because of this), the eighth seems like a deliberate step away from musical dramtization, and into the realm of abstract, 'pure' music, a music which functions on its own, not driven by any extra-musical 'program.
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The classic recorded performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antartica" (completed 1952) is Sir Adrian Boult's on EMI from the mid-1960s; a slightly later performance on RCA led by André Previn boasted superior sound but misjudged by prefacing each movement with spoken versions of RVW's epigraphs. (Thus interrupting the musical continuity in a score that depends heavily on a seamless transition from one mood to another.) Bernard Haitink (also on EMI) issued an "Antartica" about fifteen years ago, very close to Boult's in merit, but - in this day of classical-music démorale - "no longer available." Haitink's countryman, Kees Bakels, has "burned" a CD cycle of the RVW symphonies for Naxos, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and one entry therein couples the Eighth with the "Antartica" (ordinally the Seventh). As James Day notes in his book on RVW, the "Antartica" calls on the largest orchestra that the composer ever stipulated, with parts for organ, wind-machine, an enormous percussion battery, and wordless soprano-solo with female choral vocalise. The "Antartica" shares with the "Pastoral" and the Sixth the evocation of inhuman nature and of human courage pitted (heroically but vainly) against such nature. Boult grasped this aspect of the work, but the limited capacity of mid-60s analogue recording took its toll on the realization of his understanding. (The vinyl pressings also posed an obstacle. I owned the American Angel pressing as well as an EMI import; neither struck me as adequate.) Bakels, like Boult, sees that this is a grim account, a genuine sequel to the tragic E-Minor Symphony of 1947. Notice how he takes the crescendi in the Prelude, with the great climax at 1.Read more ›
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