Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony - Seaman
Harmonia Mundi HMU 807567
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony, Serenade to Music
Christopher Seaman (conductor)
As a young conductor I received a great deal of support and encouragement from Sir Adrian Boult, who had been a friend of Vaughan Williams and one of his favourite interpreters. He and his wife regularly listened to my BBC broadcasts and often wrote with comments and suggestions. One of my most treasured possessions is the following letter, written after a broadcast of "A London Symphony," a work often associated with Boult himself.
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Review by Graham Williams - March 3, 2012
This is the first recording of the revised version of Vaughan Williams' 'A London Symphony' to appear on SACD and very good it is too. The British conductor Christopher Seaman has been at the helm of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for the past thirteen seasons and the fine individual and collective playing of the orchestra evinced on this recording are a testament to what he has achieved during his tenure with them.
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed his 'Symphony No.2 in G' in 1912-13 and substantially revised it in 1918 and again in 1933. He gave it the title 'A London Symphony' though later stated that a better one would perhaps be 'Symphony by a Londoner' to avoid the impression that the work was purely descriptive rather than a piece of absolute music.
The symphony's opening section, suggesting the city coming to life after dawn breaks, is beautifully conveyed by Seaman and his orchestra, while thanks to the superb recording the lower strings are reproduced with excellent clarity. The movement's main 'Allegro risoluto' is delivered incisively and with terrific punch. The 'Lento' that follows is notable for supremely beautiful playing from the muted strings and sensitive solos from the orchestra's cor anglais, horn and viola principals. Seaman allows the impassioned melody at the centre of this movement to make its full emotional impact while still maintaining a forward moving tempo. A combination of delicacy and vitality characterize the nocturnal 'Scherzo', whilst the finale is notable for the power and grandeur of the Rochester brass.
As a young conductor Christopher Seaman had received much support and encouragement from Sir Adrian Boult and the liner notes of this SACD include a touching letter from Sir Adrian to Seaman, written in 1979, in which he praises a BBC broadcast performance of this symphony conducted by Seaman. Boult describes it as 'delightfully lively and “right”. Some thirty years later Boult's description seems equally appropriate to the performance given on this disc.
As already indicated the recorded sound is extremely fine with unrivalled crispness and clarity. Reproduction of brass and percussion have great impact, but never at the expense of the strings or wind - balances throughout are exemplary. Strangely the liner notes provide no information regarding the date and venue of the recording or any technical details of this hybrid multi-channel SACD.
The disc is completed by 'The Serenade to Music' - one of the loveliest works that Vaughan Williams ever composed. Sixteen singers from Mercury Opera Rochester give a most creditable account of the original version of the score and, as in the symphony, the orchestral playing is supremely beautiful.
Harmonia Mundi's presentation is excellent – detailed liner notes include the text for the Serenade and a complete listing of the names of all performers, while John Atkinson Grimshaw's painting - 'Reflections on the Thames, Westminster' provides an apt and attractive sleeve picture. Strangely, however, the liner notes provide no information regarding the date and venue of the recording or any technical details for this hybrid multi-channel SACD.
Highly recommended - a recording not to be missed!
Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net