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  Naxos -
  Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works - Judd
  Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1, In the Fen Country, Fantasia on Greensleeves, Concerto Grosso

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
James Judd (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 2

Site review by Polly Nomial January 28, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by Scott June 30, 2006 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This disc contains four well-known RVW works - the Tallis and Greensleeves Fantasias, Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1, and In The Fen Country, and one rarely heard work - the Concerto Grosso. Presumably recorded in 24-bit PCM, the venue was the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington, New Zealand. I listened only in 2-channel SACD through a Yamaha player and on Mirage Omni 260 speakers.

James Judd and the NZ Symphony Orchestra have turned out one of the most unusual (and therefore interesting) performances of the Tallis Fantasia I have ever heard. Judd seems to be angling for the title of the "revisionist" Vaughan Williams interpreter in this work. Put simply, this performance incorporates several "180-degree" divergences from typically acceptable tempi in this work. The whole piece is played very straight, with no lingering or meandering. If this were another work, one might get the idea that Judd is simply following the score - but in many cases here, he's not - he following his own interpretive inclinations. Though the opening measures and melodic statement are played conventionally enough (perhaps slightly fast), the middle recapitulation is faster than I can ever recall hearing it, live or on disc. In fact, a part of me wonders whether, if I had come to the piece for the first time and heard it played this way, I'd have enjoyed it as much as I did.

As I said earlier, some of this is very interesting and has certainly gotten me listening this piece anew. I can't say I'm enthralled hearing it this way, but it isn't terrible and has actually started to grow on me somewhat. Sonically, the 2nd orchestra seems noticeably distant, though I suspect that if I were listening in 5.1 sonics, this might change totally. The most welcome sonic aspect of this recording was a well-grounded and defined bass line - after listening to Judd and the New Zealanders, Hickox and the LSO on Chandos sound as though the bass players were up in the choir loft at All Saints Church, rather than with the rest of the orchestra on the floor.

The remainder of the disc is much less controversial performance-wise and sounded absolutely great in 2-channel sound. Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 is very enjoyable (too bad they could not include the Rhapsody No. 2). In The Fen Country falls similarly into the perfectly acceptable category. I'm not much of a fan of the Concerto, but this swift peformance doesn't quite match up to the standard set on Boult's EMI recording, though it's much better sonically.

If the Tallis Fantasia were more conventional, I might have rated this disc at 4.5 stars - but because of the idiosyncracies of this performance, I've given it 4.

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Works: 5  

Ralph Vaughan Williams - Concerto Grosso (1950)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (1910, rev. 1913/19)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - In the Fen Country (1904)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 (1906, rev. 1914)