Vaughan Williams
Symphony No.4 in F minor
Norfolk Rhapsody No.1
Flos Campi – Suite for viola, chorus and orchestra
Paul Silverthorne (viola)

Bournemouth Symphony Chorus

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel

Recorded 6 & 7 March 2003 in The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole
CD No: NAXOS 8.557276
Duration: 63 minutes
Reviewed: November 2004
The Bournemouth Symphony’s Vaughan Williams symphony cycle for Naxos, begun by Kees Bakels and being completed by Paul Daniel, has been an inconsistent affair. The latest instalment is a Symphony No.4 with all the right tempos set and a mostly lucid realisation of important details: but, the crucial, militaristic side drum intervention in the finale (7’42”-7’47”) is virtually inaudible!
Elsewhere, despite fine preparation and excellent, committed playing, there can be a lack of internally generated menace and force. This is music that should grab you by the neck and shake you around; Daniel marshals the notes just a little too objectively. The BSO’s previous Vaughan Williams 4 with Berglund (EMI) is one of the great recorded accounts, so too those by Bernstein (CBS/Sony) and Slatkin (RCA), and there are memorable ones from Stokowski (Cala), Mitropoulos (CBS/Sony), Colin Davis (Boston Symphony) and Handley (EMI Eminence/CFP). And not to forget Boult (twice), the composer himself (a blistering version) or memories of hair-raising live accounts from Solti and Rozhdestvensky, with the LPO and LSO respectively.
Daniel isn’t quite caught up enough in the turmoil of the music – or its chill (the slow movement, which also lacks implacability), expectancy and, at times, sheer savagery. All this said, with some demonstrative and sensitive playing and a clear recording (the acoustic just a little too ambient, though) this would be a fine introduction to a great symphony and, actually, something rather more than that. There are certainly memorable features, all of them calm moments (either before or after storms) – at the end of the first movement and during the finale; here Daniel seems wholly engaged, to memorable effect.
The Norfolk Rhapsody comes into competition with Boult’s seemingly unsurpassable EMI account of it; although Daniel brings off well the slower sections, the livelier middle has its rhythms computer-generated rather than lifted in the way that Boult was able to do with a flick of his baton.
One thing that this choice of works makes explicit is the range of VW’s music – from momentous symphony, to magical creations based on folksong, to mysticism. Flos Campi is a deeply beautiful example of the latter. The solo viola, lovingly played by the (slightly too forward) Paul Silverthorne, and the ecstatic choruses are key parts of the music’s symbolism and transcendentalism; and there’s a wonderful orchestral passage towards the close that pre-empts the composer’s Fifth Symphony, which in turn is integral to VW’s opera, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

 

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