This release is the final volume in a cycle of the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams on the Chandos label, a cycle that has had many pleasures. It's a superb conclusion, and you might even pick this volume if you want just one from the whole set. Start with the sound: Chandos engineers outdo themselves in the Grieghalle in Norway, where the Bergen Philharmonic rings, glitters, and is reproduced with enough dynamic range to remind you that a symphony orchestra really ought to push the senses a bit. The selection of works brings you three distinct facets of Vaughan Williams' personality: The neoclassic Piano Concerto in C major in a version co-composed by Vaughan Williams for two pianos, with its rhapsodically hushed finale; the intimate Four Last Songs, set to texts by Ursula Vaughan Williams, done by baritone Roderick Williams, never in better voice; and the Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7) for soprano solo, female chorus, and orchestra, a vivid tone poem that is almost experimental in its sound world. Conductor Sir Andrew Davis gets the breadth of color (sample anywhere in the third movement, Landscape) but also keeps things moving with a larger line (the performance clocks in several minutes faster than average) that justifies the composer's description of the work as a symphony, not a tone poem. An immensely satisfying Vaughan Williams that will keep you coming back.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7) for Soprano Solo, Female Chorus, and Orchestra|
|Four Last Songs for Voice and Piano|
|Concerto in C major for Piano and Orchestra|
I. Toccata. Allegor moderato - Poco animato - Tempo I - Poco animato - Tempo I - Poco animato - Largamente - Cadenza -
Finale alla tedesca - Cadenza - Poco stringendo - Cadenza - Lento - Largo sostenuto - Andante sostenuto