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Vaughan Williams: Early & Late Works - Folk Songs of the Four Seasons; Bucolic Suite; Dark Pastoral; Serenade / Guy Johnston, cello

Notes & Reviews:

The unplayed early works of Ralph Vaughan Williams have been a tantalizing might-have-been for fans of his music. Now, building on the success of their recording of the impressive Heroic Elegy & Triumphal Epilogue, Dutton couples world première recordings of Vaughan Williams' delightful Serenade in A minor and Bucolic Suite. These tuneful discoveries are presented together with some lesser-known scores from his maturity. David Matthews completed and orchestrated the slow movement of the unfinished cello concerto that Vaughan Williams was writing for Casals in the 1940s as the haunting Dark Pastoral, championed here by cellist Guy Johnston, whilst the orchestral suite from Vaughan Williams' 1949 choral setting Folk Songs of the Four Seasons gives us a succession of delightful tunes. Featured artists are the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates.

American Record Guide, January/February 2013
These two recordings are rather similar, if not exactly the same, in repertoire and execution. They are in both cases well performed and splendidly recorded. The SACD format used in the Melba is gilding the lily, a totally insubstantial gesture in recording these small groups and in this acoustically undemanding repertoire. If you are fond of this music and want authentic renderings of it, you will surely enjoy both of these, even though they break no new ground as interpretations.

BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012
The stand-out music...comes in Dark Pastoral. This is David Matthews's wonderfully skilled and imaginative, yet always-in-style completion of the slow movement of an unfinished cello concerto...Johnston's playing is searchingly beautiful and accurate; and as in the other works, Yates and the RSNO provide a quality contribution.

Gramophone Magazine, January 2013
Guy Johnston makes an impeccable soloist...Yates presides over enthusiastic, spick-and-span performances. The sound is vivid, if a touch raw.

American Record Guide, March / April 2013
There are folk influences in all four pieces heard here. Four Seasons combines two folksongs in four of its five movements. Only 'The Cuckoo' gets its own movement. A most charming pairing is 'Wassail Song' and 'Children's Christmas Song'. The five-movement Serenade is a more formal structure. The romance is the most stylistically developed section. Dark Pastoral, the sheer beauty of the music makes the listener devoutly wish that VW had completed the concerto. In the four-movement Bucolic Suite the influence of Dvorak and Bruch intermingles with British folk dances are still a charming piece of music. I am most pleased by the miniature cellopiece. Johnston's cello sings with romantic effusion, lovingly supported by the orchestra. VW's orchestrations are ear-beguiling, with some lovely playing by the horns and woodwinds.


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