István Kertész

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

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The pairing of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis may not be an obvious choice, at least from the standpoint of a music historian, for it is difficult to imagine any relevant connection between the two composers. But it is a workable combination that makes a rather compelling program. Of course, István Kertész and the London Symphony Orchestra recorded these works almost two years apart, in 1964 and 1966, respectively, so the decision was made later, in the production of this CD. Even so, that takes nothing away from the sublimity of the idea: the expansiveness and radiance of Bruckner complemented by the melancholy and elegiac tone of Vaughan Williams. Or the adjectives can be swapped and still suggest some of the profound emotional states these pieces may summon for listeners. In terms of the performances, the live recordings are generally clean and well engineered, with audience noises kept to a minimum and the sound levels of the orchestra given a natural-sounding balance. At times in the Symphony No. 4, the enthusiasm of the brass makes the fanfares seem a bit too cutting and aggressive for what is otherwise a carefully modulated interpretation. The Fantasia, scored for double-string orchestra, has no comparable problems of attack, and for the quality of the playing, it is easily the smoothest performance here. Still, if the point of this CD is to present two of the most edifying classics side-by-side, the emotional depth of the performances certainly overrides their minor technical problems.

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