BBC Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony (1920 Version)

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

Ralph Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony, otherwise known as the Symphony No. 2 in G major, was composed between 1911 and 1913, and premiered in 1914. After the score was lost in the mail, reconstructed from the short score and orchestral parts, and revised twice, the symphony was published at last in 1920, though it was ultimately replaced by the definitive version in 1936, with cuts to the about 20 minutes of the original material. This recording by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra presents the 1920 version, along with three short works, Sound sleep for female voices and small orchestra, Orpheus with his lute for voice and orchestra, and the Variations for brass band. The filler pieces are delightful rarities that Vaughan Williams specialists will find of some interest, though most listeners will prize this recording for the energetic and colorful performance of the symphony, which is one of the composer's most vivid and satisfying works. While this release may not receive the widespread publicity that attended Richard Hickox's 2001 world premiere recording of the 1913 version, serious admirers of Vaughan Williams will find it valuable in assessing the symphony's confusing history, though the differences between this and the 1936 version are not significant, and most of the symphony's character and structure remains quite familiar.

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