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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I am looking for a cycle of Vaughan Williams's symphonies which is quintessentially "English" in its musical language. I have looked on PrestoClassical and considered purchasing Haitink's set, until I found out that one of its reviewers said that some of the other pieces don't sound as pastoral as they should. (He includes the Tallis Fantasia, the Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 and The Lark Ascending as well).

When looking at Vernon Handley's set and Sir Andrew Davis's set, the information was that the narration in the "Sinfonia Antartica" is omitted. I would like some clarification as to whether this matters or not. I would also like to find out which is the best of these sets (there is also the Boult box for Decca which I looked at) and what the best order of listening is, because I am a newcomer to this music.

When planning an order for me, please understand that I look for serenity in Vaughan Williams.

Thank you

Louis
 

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Hi, Louis. Welcome to a great forum.
I have the Sir Adrian Boult RVW Symphonic Set, performed by both the London Philharmonic and New Philharmonia Orchestra. I would recommend this set to any one who appreciates the wonderful symphonic output of Vaughan Williams, as obviously you do. It sounds--especially the "London Symphony"--"English enough" to me, although perhaps I am a poor judge of this as I am an American. Vis a vis the Seventh Symphony ("Antarctic") the Boult traversal has no narration; the music itself is so powerfully compelling that--IMHO--it needs none, as it more than adequately "speaks for itself".
Indeed, I have also heard versions of this work where a verbal narration is included, and felt it added nothing at all to the overwhelming sense of starkness and beauty that this symphony always evokes in me.
I hope this helped you a little in your quest. Anyways, happy hunting! If you have access to Spotify, maybe you could check out other conductors and their readings. I listened to Richard Hickox (spelling?, sorry) rendition of the RVW Second, and was literally "blown away" by the power and passion which he brought to this work.
 

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For cycles, I thought that Slatkin/Philharmonia was possibly the most consistent but not my first choice for any particular symphony (has anyone ever made a great cycle?).

However the later symphonies don't really fit into your "pastoral" criteria so it may not fit your requirements.
 

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Boult is widely recommended, but Handley is also a safe bet. No problem with lack of Englishness - it is always there! All the works, especially Pastoral Symphony, sound as English as it gets.

The poems in No. 7 are not to be read - it would disrupt the music too much, especially given the attacca connection between movements 3 and 4. But even if it was otherwise, the recording would still be recommended as it is the most powerful and compelling, at least for me. I do not think anyone can beat Handley in the third movement which features Liverpool Cathedral organ!


Best regards, Dr
 

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Boult is widely recommended, but Handley is also a safe bet. No problem with lack of Englishness - it is always there! All the works, especially Pastoral Symphony, sound as English as it gets.

The poems in No. 7 are not to be read - it would disrupt the music too much, especially given the attacca connection between movements 3 and 4. But even if it was otherwise, the recording would still be recommended as it is the most powerful and compelling, at least for me. I do not think anyone can beat Handley in the third movement which features Liverpool Cathedral organ!
Best regards, Dr
Best-engineered-and-balanced organ for the Landscape movement ever.
 

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If you really want a set that retains all the necessary 'Englishness', then I would suggest you have to go with the Handley set. As has already been suggested, the recording of No.7 (Antartica) is matchless.
BTW, I have this ancient Decca Eclipse recording on vinyl of the 7th with the LPO conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, where the poems are read (by Sir John Gielgud). The poems really do add something to the overall, but the symphony is perfectly fine without them.

Sky Ecoregion Mountain World Nature
 

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I really don't like the early Boult set, I won't bother listing why. They're readily available so you can make up your own mind.
Previn's set has been lauded.
Also the Naxos set with Kees Bakels has a very 'English' sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I've now seen a Vaughan Williams boxed set on Classics For Pleasure in a special offer on Presto Classical which includes all nine symphonies performed by the RLPO and Vernon Handley. It also includes smaller works, like Flos Campi and the Oboe Concerto. Is that the best to purchase?
 

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I've now seen a Vaughan Williams boxed set on Classics For Pleasure in a special offer on Presto Classical which includes all nine symphonies performed by the RLPO and Vernon Handley. It also includes smaller works, like Flos Campi and the Oboe Concerto. Is that the best to purchase?
I see Presto's priced the A. Davis set a little less than the Handley. Both are excellent value. A. Davis has extras also, incl. Tasmin Little in "Lark Ascending". I have singles from both sets that I thoroughly enjoy--No. 5/Handley, Nos. 6 & 9/A.Davis. Although I probably lean toward the A. Davis set, I don't think you can go wrong with either. Good luck in deciding.

Amazon Marketplace is another thought for price comparisons, used and new.:tiphat:

PEE-ESS: What happened with your Slatkin purchase?
 

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Adrian Boult...



and Richard Hickox...



and if you still desire another alternative: Vernon Handley:

 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I see Presto's priced the A. Davis set a little less than the Handley. Both are excellent value. A. Davis has extras also, incl. Tasmin Little in "Lark Ascending". I have singles from both sets that I thoroughly enjoy--No. 5/Handley, Nos. 6 & 9/A.Davis. Although I probably lean toward the A. Davis set, I don't think you can go wrong with either. Good luck in deciding.

PEE-ESS: What happened with your Slatkin purchase?
I gave up on that one; waited to see info about other cycles, like the Davis and Handley which have been mentioned.
 

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Please help me forward with these symphonies. I have them all on record but at face value the sound is too sonorous and consonant for me. I have with it the same problem I have with Rautavaara’s sonorities. Not enough dissonance to create tension.
 

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I'd also try the 4th and the 8th. As a Sibelian there is some chance that you might eventually like some RWV, but overall he's an anglosphere phenomenon and one gets a rather exaggerated notion of his stature by reading English language internet. Don't bother if you don't get into his symphonies and move on to something else. Or try some of his other works like the Tallis variations, the "Masque" Job, the choral music or lieder.
 
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