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Vaughan Williams: London Symphony; Butterworth / Hickox

Album Summary

>Butterworth, George : Banks of Green Willow
>Vaughan Williams, Ralph : A London Symphony (Symphony no 2) (Original 1913 version)
Conductor Ensemble Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Hidden within the archives of the British Museum was the original 1913 version of Ralph Vaughan Williams Second Symphony. Withdrawn by the composer after the last performance in 1915 the original version boasts twenty extra minutes of music not heard on CD before. Chandos negotiated with the Vaughan Williams Trust and the composer's widow to record this version of the work. Here is the result. A sublime performance, plus the inclusion of some never-before-heard Vaughan Williams. -H&B

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
It was during the summer of 1911 that George Butterworth, whose enchanting 1913 idyll, The Banks of Green Willow, comprises the achingly poignant curtainraiser here, first suggested to Vaughan Williams that he should write a purely orchestral symphony.

VW dug out some sketches h'd made for a symphonic poem about London, while at the same time deriving fruitful inspiration from HG Wells's 1908 novel, Tono-Bungay. Geoffrey Toye gave the successful Queen's Hall premiere in March 1914, and VW subsequently dedicated the score to Butterworth's memory.

Over the next two decades or so, the work underwent three revisions (including much judicious pruning) and was published twice (in 1920 and 1936). In his compelling 1941 recording with the Cincinnati SO, Eugene Goossens employed the 1920 version, which adds about three minutes of music to that definitive 1936 'revised edition'. Now Richard Hickox at long last gives us the chance to hear VW's original, hour-long canvas - and riveting listening it makes too! Whereas the opening movement is as we know it today, the ensuing, expanded Lento acquires an intriguingly mournful, even worldweary demeanour. Unnervingly, the ecstatic full flowering of that glorious E major Largamente idea, first heard at fig F in the final revision, never materialises, and the skies glower menacingly thereafter. Towards the end of the Scherzo comes a haunting episode that Arnold Bax was particularly sad to see cut ('a mysterious passage of strange and fascinating cacophony' was how he described it). The finale, too, contains a wealth of additional material, most strikingly a liturgical theme of wondrous lyrical beauty, and, in the epilogue, a gripping paragraph that looks back to the work's introduction as well as forward to the first movement of A Pastoral Symphony. Sprawling it may be, but this epic conception evinces a prodigal inventiveness, poetry, mystery and vitality that do not pall with repeated hearings. Hickox and the LSO respond with an unquenchable spirit, generous flexibility and tender affection that suit VW's ambitious inspiration to a T, and Chandos's sound is big and bold to match. An essential purchase for anyone remotely interested in British music.



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Works Details

>Butterworth, George : Banks of Green Willow
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: All Saints Church, Tooting, London, England (12/18/2000-12/19/2000)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 20 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1913

>Vaughan Williams, Ralph : A London Symphony (Symphony no 2) (Original 1913 version)
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: All Saints Church, Tooting, London, England (12/18/2000-12/19/2000)
  • Running Time: 61 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1911-1913