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Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra have come up with a recording that you can cheerfully measure against most others in the catalogue, before you consider its unique extra charms! —
Butterworth, G: The Banks of Green Willow
Work length6:18 Richard Hickox, London Symphony Orchestra
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'
Work length1:01:31 Richard Hickox, London Symphony Orchestra
I. Lento - Allegro risoluto
III. Scherzo (Nocturne). Allegro vivace - Andantino
IV. Andante con moto - Maestoso alla marcia (quasi lento)
David picks out some top recordings of the works of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
20th November 2002
Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra have come up with a recording that you can cheerfully measure against most others in the catalogue, before you consider its unique extra charms!
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.
Hickox and the LSO strike again in this award-winning recording, which turns back the clock on the various revisions to the symphony and presents the original 1913 version.