Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5 - Hickox
Chandos CHSA 5004
Classical - Orchestral
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5, Valiant for truth, The Pilgrim Pavement, Hymn-tune Prelude on Song 13 by Orlando Gibbons, The Twenty-third Psalm, Prelude and Fugue in C minor
Carys Lane (soprano)
Ian Watson (organ)
Malcolm Hicks (organ)
Richard Hickox Singers
London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox (conductor)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: Hymn Tune Prelude on 'Song 13' by Gibbons (1930)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: Motet 'Valiant for truth' (1940)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: Prelude and Fugue in C minor (1921)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5 in D major (1938-43)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: The 23rd Psalm (1953)
- Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Pilgrim Pavement (1934)
Review by John Broggio - January 28, 2007
This was the first volume of Richard Hickox's Vaughan-Williams symphony cycle to be recorded by Chandos. It is an enterprising disc - as are the rest of the discs issued thus far for one reason or another - in this case it is the themed contents that is of note, for all the works derive from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, just like but prior to the opera of the same name.
Opening with Valiant-for-truth, a motet for mixed voices and organ according to the notes (the organ is not present in this recording), the Richard Hickox Singers give a beautiful performance in both this piece and the later The Twenty-third Psalm and The Pilgrim Pavement. In these two pieces, Carys Lane provides a lovely solo, sensitively accompanied by Ian Watson on the organ in The Pilgrim Pavement.
The symphony is a much lighter affair than its immediate predecessor. The Scherzo is labelled "Presto misterioso" and despite the odd moment of relative savageness, Hickox and the LSO manage the mysterious ending marvellously which prepares the listener perfectly for the Romanza that follows. This is gently wistful music with a tinge of sadness which the woodwind soloists of the LSO should be given a great deal of credit for their beautiful playing. After a subtle opening, the growing exuberance is paced well and the large crescendo handled with aplomb by Hickox. The sudden collapse takes the listener by surprise, such is the playing of the LSO - it is a marvellous moment that always tells and continues to glow to the end of this symphony. After The Pilgrim Pavement, the strings of the LSO return to play Helen Glatz's arrangement of the Hymn-tune Prelude on Song 13 by Orlando Gibbons, which they accomplish with considerable eloquence.
Concluding this recommendable disc, is the extravagant arrangement of the Prelude and Fugue in C minor (originally for organ alone but Malcolm Hicks is joined by full orchestra in this recording) which gives an appropriately grand finish to a fine set of performances. It is here, perhaps more than in any other piece, that the 1997/98 recordings reveal their comparative low resolution roots; this is a 20 bit recording (let alone a 24 bit/96 kHz that later recordings in this series become and the DSD that I imagine the forthcoming Sea Symphony will be issued from). There is occasional audible harshness from this PCM source which some will find too much to make this a highly recommendable version - it is not a great problem in the symphony, something that I suspect collectors will worry about most. This is a shame because the detail achieved by Chandos is remarkable for the technology employed and shows how far ahead of many other independent recording companies at that time: 3.5 stars for the symphony, 2.5 for the remainder - balanced at 3 is probably a fair reflection. My initial samplings suggest that the remainder of the series is far better and the whole cycle should be highly recommendable overall.
Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and HRAudio.net