Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews -- RVW and Stravinsky

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS MAJOR NEW VAUGHAN WILLIAMS AND STRAVINSKY RELEASES


Albion Records is the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society's own recording label and since its formation in 2007 has issued 172 first recordings of little-known works and arrangements. Three newly-released discs continue this tradition with some intriguing rarities. In 'Transcriptions from Truro' ★★★★★ David Briggs, on the 'Father Willis' organ of Truro Cathedral, performs his own transcriptions of 'Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus', Symphony No.5 and 'The Lark Ascending'. In the last of these he is joined by violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck, with Briggs laying down a cushion of sound (one hardly misses the orchestra) while the violin soars and carols above, with Marshall-Luck's rapturous and finely-honed playing enhanced by the warm and expansive cathedral acoustics. The 'Variants' rhapsodic nature is captured convincingly by Briggs, sounding as if originally composed for the organ. I was sceptical at first about the symphony but Briggs has excelled himself. The lovely Romanza was impressive – who needs a cor anglais? - and the organ clarified and highlighted the structure of the Passacaglia. 'Folk Sings from Newfoundland' ★★★★ is the fourth and final volume in Albion's survey of his 81 folk songs, 57 of which have been recorded for the first time. All but four of the 19 songs on this album were discovered by Vaughan Williams' colleague Maud Karpeles, mostly sad and wistful. They are winningly performed by Albion's formidable regular line-up of Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor) and Roderick Williams (baritone) with excellent support from pianist William Vann. Collectors of the earlier volumes will undoubtedly enjoy this one too. The music on 'Earth's Wide Bounds' ★★★ – with the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, William Vann (director) and Joshua Ryan (organ) – is less interesting but includes premiere recordings of 'The 'Communion Service in G minor' and choral version of 'By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame'. A disc really for the most committed enthusiasts.

Norman Stinchcombe



Stravinsky Ballets: London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle ★★★★

This double disc set of 'The Firebird', 'Petrushka' and 'The Rite of Spring', taped in concert for the LSO Live label, is the latest in his Stravinsky recordings which began in 1977 when he conducted the National Youth of Great Britain in 'The Rite'. He recorded all three with the CBSO in the late '80s – now repackaged on a double CD with 'Apollo' – and the 'Rite' again in 2013 with the Berlin Philharmonic. His edition choices have remained consistent; the 1910 score (rightly) for 'Firebird' and the 1947 versions (questionably) for the others. So has has his acute ear for orchestral colour and subtle nuances. So what's new? There is certainly more toughness, fierceness and bite in 'Petrushka' and the 'Rite' – Rattle sometimes criticised for the lack of them – partly due to the close up-front recording. The LSO playing is, as expected, virtuosic and full of character. A bargain set.

Norman Stinchcombe

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