The early chamber music of Ralph Vaughan Williams is little known today, partly because he destroyed much of it and what little he saved was stored away until his death in 1958. Little has been available for performance in the decades since, but the Piano Quintet in C minor and the Quintet in D major for clarinet, horn, violin, cello, and piano have been played increasingly, and they show enough substance and cohesiveness to become established repertoire. These pieces partake of the late Romantic style, and while Vaughan Williams' distinctive voice is nowhere in evidence, his adept handling of the instruments and ingenious imitation of Brahms and Fauré reveal his considerable skills as a young composer. Somewhat more recognizable as a Vaughan Williams work is the Six Studies in English Folk Song, which is a mature piece overflowing with yearning modal melodies, and the Romance for viola and piano, which is poignant in its simplicity and melancholy lyricism. The London Soloists Ensemble presents this program with an admirable mix of adventurousness and flexibility, though the playing is temperate and lacking in passion, and the arid recording exposes the group's thin textures and a few intonation problems. This CD is recommended for admirers of Vaughan Williams and fans of music of the fin de siècle, but others should sample it first.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Piano Quintet in C minor|
|Quintet in D major, for violin, cello, clarinet, horn and piano|
|Six Studies in English Folk Song (Version for clarinet and piano)|