add to wish list | library

38 of 38 recommend this,
would you recommend it?

yes | no

  Chandos -
  CHSA 5001
  Vaughan Williams: London Symphony - Hickox
  Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 "A London Symphony" (original 1913 version), Butterworth: On the Banks of Green Willow

London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

join discussion | delete from library | delete recommendation | report errors
Related titles: 10 show all

Reviews: 5 show all
add review

Site review by Polly Nomial January 31, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
Once again, Chandos and Richard Hickox have given us a highly imaginative disc which marries the familiar in a new guise. I sincerely wish I had discovered this series earlier because the (extra-)musical links that are made really cause one to re-evaluate the music or the wider world at that time.

In this case, the opening work is a very poignant and apt miniature from George Butterworth; "The Banks of Green Willow". Completed in the same year as the original version of the London Symphony, it evokes the pastoral heritage of England in a way that few have managed. Tragically, for the man who encouraged Vaughan Williams to compose a symphony, he was killed in the first world war only three years later. The original version of the London Symphony is at first hearing very similar to what is performed in concerts and recordings these days (a special dispensation was needed from Ursula Vaughan Williams to make this disc). However, as the informative notes from the Chair of The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society (there is also a fascinating biographical study about the story of the changes made) rightly points out, there are extensive additions in both the third and fourth movements. The first is untouched and there are minor but very beautiful additions to the second movement. The extra material gives a new balance to the work which, whilst not so technically adept, conveys moods in a much more powerful manner.

The playing and conducting of Hickox throughout this disc is quite beyond criticism - the tenderness is soothing to counter the anguish expressed in the more bitter elements. From all concerned, as an orchestra to the individual soloists, especially the unidentified violist in the Lento (some cynical string players disparagingly refer to this solo as the tramp on the square!), the sense of line is quite magical, as the evocations of bird song amongst other effects. Here the teaching of Ravel is quite evident but never paramount in both the writing and playing. Hickox's sense of rubato is pure magic when matched with playing of this stature - time after time, the ear and mind is left hanging in mid-air only to be swept away on another glorious train of thought. The magical mysterious wisps of sound in the scherzo flutter through the air only to be rudely interrupted by stomping brass, an effect quite marvellously captured here. The movement with the largest amount of "new" material is the finale and the dedication with which Hickox and the LSO manage to bring after the wrenching first part - both much extended - is astonishing. One wishes that playing and conducting like this would never end... Still, there is always the "play" button!

The recording is also very special and complements the textures of the music marvellously. Every instrument has a natural presence but without any sense of spotlighting to produce a richly detailed blend combined with a satisfyingly wide dynamic range. For those interested, the 24 bit / 96 kHz recording was aided for this SACD by Carl Schuurbiers of Polyhymnia.

Highly recommended & I look forward to more releases in this series.


Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and

Review by Chris September 24, 2004 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Marvellous,fantastic, very,very good.No wonder this disc received the disc of the Year award from Gramophone in 2001..IMO this is Vaughan William's best symphony,with scoring that is so atmospheric and captivating and so full of good tunes,that it keeps me almost entranced, from beginning to end, when I hear it performed and recorded to such perfection as here. Both the 70's Handley and the late sixties Boult version on EMI are still classic performances,and still sound excellent on LP, but they are both the cut version against this original version that definitely contains such exciting passages that one really wonders why Vaughan Williams cut them out in the revised version.
The recording is a model of its kind and although the SACD has been converted into DSD from a 24/96 PCM master,I have no complaints whatsoever!
This is yet another excellent example from Chandos of how to record a symphony orchestra realistically, in a coherent, believable acoustic.
There are, few record companies that know how to,or is it simply care to? make a realistic recording of acoustic music,most having fallen victim to the pernicious severly multi-miked artificial reverb, bad habits of pop/rock engineering.
Two companies that do stand out as Vanguards of true HI FI recording philosophy are Chandos and BIS in today's world.
For those who don't like the type of sound/ recording quality they both deliver so consistently compared to the major's more erratic results,I can only say,go to a live symphonic concert for a change,and you'll know what I mean.
Just like this disc,highly recommended!

Was this review helpful to you?  yes | no

Review by nickc December 29, 2004 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Lovely, wandering, discursive RVW - he has such an inimitable sound you could never mistake him for anyone else. Funnily enough I had never heard the London Symphony before hearing this unexpurgated version so I can take it sui generis as they say.
Even though I live on the other side of the world I was transported back to a London (the London of my dreams)of gas lights, fish markets and even Sherlock Holmes, a London on which whose empire the sun was setting. I especially loved the slow movement with the impassioned cry of the little girl selling lavender.
It is a vast, sprawling work; one in which you must surrender yourself and let the tides of sound wash over you.
We have typical Chandos house sound; big, smooth and resonant - the strings really sing out in the slow movement especially. No use looking for a Mercuryesque close in scything string sound - although I prefer the latter I have room for both approaches in my collection.

Was this review helpful to you?  yes | no

Works: 2  

George Butterworth - On the Banks of Green Willow
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 2 "A London Symphony" (1911-13, rev. 1918/20/33)