Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 9, Job - Davis

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 9, Job - Davis

Chandos  CHSA 5180

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 9, Job - A Masque for Dancing

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis (conductor)

The projected complete cycle of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies started by the late Richard Hickox has left a precious heritage in the discography of the composer.

Now, conducting the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, that other expert in British repertoire, Sir Andrew Davis, takes on the challenge of completing the series with idiomatic interpretations of two masterpieces: the final Symphony (No. 9) and the ballet Job.

The score of Job places an emphasis on tableau-like scenes, dances, and mime, linking it to a tradition of English ballet with dances from the seventeenth century, including the saraband, pavane, and galliard. In this masterly score, Vaughan Williams captures the conflict between good and evil, between the spiritual and the material. Job shows a strength, beauty, nobility, and visionary power which unite the many different facets of Vaughan Williams’s musical style. The poignant and musically enigmatic Symphony No. 9 marks ‘the end of Ralph’s life and [is] a turning point. It is leading out into another place. It is extraordinary’, as the composer’s wife stated after one of the early performances.

The subtle direction of Sir Andrew Davis combined with the pure sound quality of this SACD does full justice to Hickox’s great enterprise and promises a powerful conclusion of this already acclaimed recorded cycle.

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PCM recording

Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - February 10, 2017

The task of completing the Chandos cycle of Vaughan Williams symphonies following the untimely death of Richard Hickox in 2008 has fallen to Sir Andrew Davis whose long experience in the interpretation of this composer's music is already well-documented. Davis has previously recorded a CD of the two works featured on this new recording in 1995 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, but this is the first appearance of either of them on SACD.

' Job – A Masque for Dancing' is one of the finest orchestral works Vaughan Williams produced and over the years it has received many noteworthy recordings, including no less than four from the work's dedicatee Sir Adrian Boult, while Richard Hickox made a richly expansive version of it with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for EMI in 1992.

Davis's tempi are in general slightly more urgent than those adopted by Hickox, but it was only at the very opening that Davis seemed a touch impatient for a passage marked 'Largo sostenuto'. Elsewhere he captures the work's drama and visionary quality with great success thanks to the superb playing he elicits from the Bergen Philharmonic. Sections such as 'Satan's Dance of Triumph' have terrific power and menace while Davis's handling of the more reflective passages, for example, the 'Dance of the Three Messengers' allows some lovely wind solos to make their mark. The violin solo from Alexander Kagan in 'Elihu's Dance of Youth and Beauty' deserves special praise for the wonderfully expressive and poignant quality of his playing. Needless to say in Scene VI the huge tam-tam stroke and thunderous organ entry that depicts a vision of Satan seated on the throne of God make for a spine tingling moment.

The Grieghallen, Bergen provides the ideal spacious acoustic for this music and it is fair to say that the magnificent sound quality that the Chandos team have achieved on this 5.0 multi-channel SACD is unmatched by any previous recordings of 'Job'.

Davis is equally successful in the other work on this disc Vaughan Williams' 9th Symphony which appeared almost thirty years after 'Job'. Although this symphony is heavily scored with a sombre and often grim visage, the composer's exploration of unusual orchestral sonorities, including the use of three saxophones and a flugelhorn, gives it a unique character. The Bergen orchestra again play beautifully under Davis's expert direction with notably incisive contributions from the percussion in the humorous Scherzo. Again the recording quality does full justice to Davis's compelling performance.

This disc is an absolute winner and makes one impatient for the final issue in this cycle (Sinfonia Antartica) to appear.

Copyright © 2017 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (8)

Comment by Scott A. - January 5, 2017 (1 of 8)

Well, I guess I'm glad they'll be "completing the series," especially as we have no SACD versions of the 7th or 9th. On the other hand, I have to say it is a disappointment that this will be 24/96 instead of DSD. Mind you, the Hickox recordings go back at least as far as 1999 with the 5th, which was 20-bit. I'm pretty sure it was 24/96 for everything else except the Sea Symphony, which was DSD.

Perhaps Bis, Linn or Channel will someday give us a proper VW symphony cycle in DSD without audience noise (sorry, Pentatone & Melba) and no choral or vocal fillers, which I found very annoying with the Hickox recordings. Also, I have to say I find his 3rd, the only SACD available, to be a pretty odd performance. As it stands now, you can't cobble together a decent set by mixing conductors/labels, and, even if Davis does an excellent job (pun intended) with 7 & 9, we could still use a top notch version of the London Symphony in its final revision, a less eccentric 3rd, and better performed and engineered versions of 6 & 8.

All that said, I've already pre-ordered this disc and will be grateful to have it (Thanks, Chandos!). I guess, as a Vaughan Williams (and Martinu) enthusiast, I can't help but be jealous of all the fine SACDs that Mahler & Bruckner fans get showered with.

Comment by diw - January 8, 2017 (2 of 8)

Davis is scheduled to perform the 7th in Bergen at the end of January, so I assume we will get the final disc of this cycle around this time next year.

I can't argue that the SQ of the average Chandos SACD has significantly improved since the cycle started. So I wouldn't object if they decided to rerecord all of the RVW symphonies.

Comment by hiredfox - February 16, 2017 (3 of 8)

"Perhaps Bis, Linn or Channel will someday give us a proper VW symphony cycle in DSD".

Sadly Scott they will not, neither Linn nor BIS record in DSD and Channel have abandoned SACD in favour of downloading and streaming with the exceptions of Rachel Podger and Ivan Fischer's BFO and we don't get many of these now.

Comment by William Hecht - February 16, 2017 (4 of 8)

It appears that Linn have abandoned sacd as well. One release in the last eight months and that was a sampler vs. 11 on rbcd.

Comment by jdaniel1371 - February 20, 2017 (5 of 8)

Thank you for the glowing review. I've listened carefully to full samples (via eClassical), of "Job" and the performance seems a bit underwhelming: the dark undercurrents, (such as the low sustained bass notes here and there), don't crescendo very menacingly, and the exquisite viola solo (Eliahu's Dance) a bit stiff and clumsy. My favorite Job is Mark Wordsworth on Collins.

Comment by hiredfox - February 25, 2017 (6 of 8)

In all honesty Ralph Vaughan Williams final symphony has always been a very difficult listen for me; in my most generous of moods I have thought it to be somewhat of an aimless assemblage of musical ramblings framed into the structure of a symphony but devoid of programme or narrative. Davis, you would think could perhaps extract more meaning and form from the basic ingredients than most but sadly even if one accepts this premise, he too seems unable to find any hidden magical synergy that would bring the work to life.

What we do know about the work's conception (Tess) is well documented and the Thomas Hardy country is extremely well known to me as it is literally on our doorstep in the South of England but beyond that it has absolutely no special resonance with me or this area.

If you are an obsessive completist then by all means go ahead and buy the disc but otherwise this symphony is definitely one to skip by. In my darkest of moods? Simply tedious!

Davis' "Job" is not as pure or faultless as Hickox's / BSO but the latter harks back to the good old, bad old days of RBCD whereas at least Davis is in higher res. and mch. Even so Hickox remains top of my list.

Comment by jdaniel1371 - February 25, 2017 (7 of 8)

Thanks, but I actually find the 2nd mov't of the 9th to be very moving and worth the priced of admission, esp. Boult's 1st recording. With regard to RBCD Job's, do try Wordsworth's on Collins just to see how it can actually be done!

Comment by Marcus DiBenedetto - December 10, 2020 (8 of 8)

I am certainly a fan of RVW. This recording of Job is absolutely one of my favorite albums to play frequently. I recently watched a YouTube video by David Hurwitz (Classics Today) about Job and he highlights this Davis recording as among the best (at 18:30 into the video). The review reminded to once again give it a listen and I am still impressed with it and enjoyed as much as ever. My opinion is that it is very well recorded and provides an expansive soundstage (multichannel SACD). Dark vs. Light is obvious and Job's struggle with temptation is apparent. Turn the lights down and play it. This is music I can easily connect with emotionally.

Marcus DiBenedetto
Las Vegas, NV