Howard Arman

A Sea Symphony

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Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony is a spectacular work for soprano, baritone, chorus, and large orchestra, and the super audio format is ideal for capturing the music's sonorous timbres, rich choral textures, and evocative impressions of the ocean. This hybrid SACD presents the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Radio Choir, under Howard Arman, in a sweeping and stirring live performance from 2007, and the interpretation is comparable to some of the great recordings. While not as incisive as Adrian Boult's classic recording, it can be placed somewhere between André Previn's muscular take on RCA and Richard Hickox's expansive SACD version on Chandos. The single drawback of the singing is the chorus' heavy German pronunciation of Walt Whitman's words, which sounds strangest when the voices are exposed, as in the opening fanfare, "Behold, the sea itself!" Fortunately, soloists Geraldine McGreevy and Tommi Hakala are not burdened with this accent, and their singing impressively conveys Vaughan Williams' elegiac expressions, as a duet in "A Song for All Seas, All Ships" and "The Explorers," and Hakala by himself in the second movement, "On the Beach At Night Alone." The multichannel reproduction is deep and spacious, so the huge ensemble has a lot of acoustic space to occupy.

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