The casual buyer might infer from the subtitle "Fifty years of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams" that this is a kind of survey of Vaughan Williams' music, but in fact it's a collection of quite obscure pieces. It'll be of most interest to Vaughan Williams buffs, but it's actually quite a bit more interesting than general listeners might guess. True to its title, the album presents music composed by Vaughan Williams between 1902 and 1952. The real find is at the beginning: the three impressions for orchestra, composed in the first years of the 20th century, are absolutely characteristic of the composer despite their early date. The connection with nature, the episodic language that would in time become cinematic, the visionary, idealist quality: all are here. The three impressions (The "Solent" is a channel near the Isle of Wight, in case you were wondering) and the Incidental Music to the Mayor of Casterbridge, from the other end of the time range, both receive their world premieres here, and both are well worth reviving. Elsewhere there are arrangements for baritone and orchestra of a few of the Songs of Travel, an intriguing group of hymn settings for the unusual combination of tenor, viola, and orchestra, and various other works; together they make possible the argument that Vaughan Williams' basic musical personality changed less over time than that of any other major composer of the 20th century. For his fans, high-quality unknown works are going to be cause for celebration, especially in the completely idiomatic performances they receive here from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Paul Daniel.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola Obbligato and Strings|
|Incidental Music to the Mayor of Casterbridge|