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RVW's 9th


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Dundonnell
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« on: May 01, 2013, 08:28:02 pm »

Tomorrow night in Glasgow, Scotland I will have the rare pleasure (unlikely to be repeated Sad) of attending a performance of the Vaughan Williams 9th with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the indefatigable Andrew Manze.

The concert will be broadcast live. Steven Osborne will be playing the Beethoven Emperor Concerto as the "crowd-puller" Grin

Given Manze's success with RVW at the Proms last year this should be a memorable occasion Smiley Smiley  The Ninth is a remarkable and grossly under-estimated work. It demonstrates that even in extreme old age RVW was developing and stretching his idiom.
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2013, 10:33:16 pm »

Indeed! The Boult emi cd of VW's Eighth & Ninth Symphonies is one of my favourite VW cds (Not saying they are the greatest recordings,but I like having them together,and Boult's interpretations). In fact,I would even go so far as to say that,the last two are,probably,my favourites. But of course I like them all!

Of course,I'm going to have to 'pop' it on,now!
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jimfin
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2013, 11:56:22 pm »

The 9th just gets richer and richer in my opinion. I don't think there are any "bad" VW symphonies, though the 'Antarctica' has never interested me a lot, but I find the two most neglected, the 'Pastoral' and the 9th, are among my favourites. He seems to grow in stature yearly. When I was at school, the only example we had played to us was the insipid 'Fantasia on Greensleeves', which is (a) not his tune and (b) not his arrangement. Why couldn't they have played the first movement of the 4th or 6th? Teenagers would love those
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2013, 02:35:36 am »

Quite like the Sinfonia Antarctica,myself. But,you have to be in the right mood,because of it's cinematic origins (Glaciers,Penguins,stiff upper lip heroics,etc!). The Haitink recording was only the first,or second cd,I heard (I can't remember what the other one was. You could only borrow two from the library!). A few weeks later thieves robbed the library of every single cd. The Lps had been there for years!!!

I've got the Ninth ready for play,sometime today!

Teenagers must be a cerebral lot where you live! At my school,classical music was always met with jeers & loud yawns. The Sex Pistols;now that would have gone down well! The Human League,Kraftwerk & Duran Duran (for the girls) where I lived,amongst others! In fact,in all my years,I can count the number of people I have met who are into classical music,on one hand! And I have yet to encounter any young people blasting VW,Bach or even Mozart,from their open car windows,while walking though town! It's always club music or Rap! And the same down the pub! Sad

Of course there are some! I was one!! Grin
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JimL
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2013, 06:28:27 am »

Um...believe it or not folks...it's 'Sinfonia Antartica', not Antarctica.  Even though 'Antarctica' is actually correct.
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Gauk
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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2013, 07:46:59 am »

Tomorrow night in Glasgow, Scotland I will have the rare pleasure (unlikely to be repeated Sad) of attending a performance of the Vaughan Williams 9th with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the indefatigable Andrew Manze.

I would go to that myself but as bad luck would have it, I'm laid up with bronchitis. I would not be a welcome part of the audience!
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2013, 07:52:25 am »

Get well soon Smiley
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2013, 12:53:21 pm »

Um...believe it or not folks...it's 'Sinfonia Antartica', not Antarctica.  Even though 'Antarctica' is actually correct.
As are you,JimL! Grin In all fairness,it was  late at night! But then again,maybe I should have been in bed? Grin Having said that,I do hope we're not going to get into point scoring here,about grammar & human error,or it's going to get like an Amazon review page....."um...folks"! Roll Eyes In fact,if I was to pass observation on every single grammatical error,misspelling here,or instance of human error,on the pages of this forum,I would be at it all day! Maybe,I'm just too polite! Roll Eyes Grin And,then again,maybe people are too polite about me?! Roll Eyes
On the other hand,we don't want the words 'Sinfonia Antartica' spreading through these pages like a hideous contagion,do we? So,thank you JimL,point taken! Grin

Onto more pressing matters!! Grin I have the Ninth symphony on 'cordless headphones',right now. This has to be my favourite VW symphony,after the Eighth. A powerful work,with no 'dead wood'. It has a visionary quality,which was obviously beyond the intellectual grasp of VW's more conventionally minded contemporaries. Unlike Bax's Seventh,for example,which is still quite a powerful work,in it's own way;I don't get the feeling of 'diminishing powers',or a,largely spent force,looking wearily back. Of course,music had changed,and these people were looking at VW's music through 'contemporary' eyes,and let's face it,critics are just naturally bitchy,aren't they?!
From our own perspective,it's hard to see anything wrong with this symphony. As far as I can make out,it is all very tightly constructed. It pulls you in and keeps you listening,from start to finish. I also like the way it welds the astringent visionary qualities of the Sixth,to some of the pictorialism of the earlier symphonies,ie the ghostly drummer. And spooky it is! Just thinking about that episode on a wintry,blowy,night and I'm ducking under the bed sheets. A bit like that night when I heard a 'knocking' noise downstairs,only to discover,to my horror,that the 'ghostly tapping' was coming from the lane outside. Probably,just something flapping in wind,but still......and at 3.30am!! Shocked Sad What an imagination!! And (going back to the symphony) the extraordinarily imaginative instrumentation. Saxophones (and flugelhorns!)! What did that critic say? "Thickening the middle-orchestra texture"?! Well,all I can say is,if it sounds this good,I only wish he'd thickened it more! Grin As to whether it was only 'notable' because it was by Vaughan Williams? Well,maybe that critic had a point,in a way,if you think about all the other fine symphonies around,composed by less prominent composers (and if he wasn't just point scoring).

But then you listen to the symphony,and it's b***** good!!





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Dundonnell
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2013, 01:48:51 pm »

The first performance at the Proms-three weeks before the composer's death-by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent did the symphony no favours. It is stodgy and under-powered.

Stokowski's US premiere of the work was much more impressive....as, of course, was Boult's recording made on the day of RVW's death.

(Train to Glasgow in 2 hours Smiley(
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2013, 05:16:28 pm »

A fascinating score.Not being a musician,I just use my ears;but I don't find any inconsistencies in this score. It's full of interesting ideas from beginning to end. In fact,I find this score allot more compelling than the some of the earlier,more popular ones (with the exception of No 5).
As to the Sinfonia Antartica,"folks" Roll Eyes Grin. I think it's cinematic origins are a reasonable excuse for any perceivable shortcomings. As a teenager,I remember being very excited by the musical pictorialism of VW's depictions of penguins,howling blizzards & glaciers. The Haitink was,of course,a bit of a spectacular at the time. Indeed,a youngster who might otherwise be bored to tears by an ascending Lark,or someone they've never heard of,called Thomas Tallis,might just be tempted (after hearing it,possibly at full blast Grin) into trying a drop of the hard,or harder stuff!
Unlike jimfin,I DO rather like the score,when I'm in the right mood. Having said that,despite all the filmic spectacle,along the way,the fact that it depicts a long,frostbitten trudge to an icy death,does put me off a bit. I DO like happy endings! Mind you,there's not much VW could do about that,fair play! Roll Eyes
Of course a 'Roald Amundsen Symphony' based on a movie about Amundsen would have been more upbeat,but a bit too boring. The fact that the bloke,who won the race,wasn't British,and did some decent research before he went there doesn't go down well in the English speaking world,old bean!! Roll Eyes Grin




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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2013, 07:56:21 pm »

Vladimir Jurowski performed RVW 9 in Moscow recently, as a guest conductor with the Russian National Orchestra.

He managed to find a lightness of touch with it that defused a potentially stodgy performance.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2013, 12:49:26 am »

Just returned home from a quite splendid concert: Wagner's Prelude to Act I of "Lohengrin"(wonderful music), a marvellous performance of the Beethoven Emperor Concerto by Steven Osborne and Andrew Manze and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra giving a wonderful rendering of the RVW 9th.

My heavens...but that work has soared in my estimation even further, if that were possible. It is both a valedictory summation of all VW's symphonic work but also has a questing nature. There is no easy reconciliation at the end. That ending is both glorious and enigmatic. In his mid-80s VW retained the capacity to surprise his listeners with fresh sounds and novel instrumentation.

I also hear a number of passages which recall his great friend, Gustav Holst(a passage in the first movement which recalls "Egdon Heath", a rhythmic exoticism shortly afterwards that recalls the sound of "Beni Mora".

This was the sort of performance which was crying out to be recorded. Some record company needs to get Manze to do an RVW cycle. He clearly not only loves the music but can inspire a good orchestra to perform at the very peak of its ability!!
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mjkFendrich
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« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2013, 08:30:25 am »

Hello,

I've recorded the RVW 9th yesterday and could upload it this weekend.
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Christo
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« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2013, 08:57:53 am »

Um...believe it or not folks...it's 'Sinfonia Antartica', not Antarctica.  Even though 'Antarctica' is actually correct.

I think I read somewhere that RVW himself only discovered in a late stage that the Italian spelling is indeed Antartica, not Antarctica as in Latin or English.

Hello, I've recorded the RVW 9th yesterday and could upload it this weekend.

Great news!
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… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.  RVW, 1948
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« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2013, 05:35:25 pm »

I love Vaughan Williams very much and this work in particular.  It is a great symphony and there is much to like about this new recording.  I like the slow, ominous treatment of the opening in this atmospheric interpretation.  I think the fourth movement benefits from a sense of deepening envelopment – a sense of grandeur befitting the last statement the composer will make in this medium.  Hopefully this will get a studio recording with these same forces where some of the various issues of live performance can be addressed because it’s a brilliant interpretation full of quirk and intense pathos that is so much a part of Vaughan Williams.

As far as recordings, my two favorites of this symphony are Boult’s London Philharmonic and Andre Previn/London Symphony.  The Previn/LSO has an appropriately cataclysmic coda where those tremendous E major chords are so hard fought and fade into infinity.  I find Haitink’s is not true to the score and suffers from poor balance in the recording.  For example, a fortissimo tam-tam strike is virtually inaudible in that recording which would be earth shattering in performance.  Horns are generally muted even when playing at maximum volume, etc.  Basically, there are many technical issues with that recording mostly around poor balance.   I believe Haitink took so long to record the series that this lacks a cohesive vision found in Previn and Boult.  Haitink is excellent in the “Sea Symphony”, pretty good in No. 5 and 7, weak in No. 9.  Previn and Boult are outstanding in No. 5.

My favorite recordings of the series are:
No. 1: Haitink, The London Philharmonic and London Phiharminic Choir
No. 2 (original version): Hickox/London Symphony
No. 2: Previn/Royal Philharmonic or Owain Arwel Hughes/Philharmonic Orchestra
No. 3: Boult/London Philharmonic
No. 4: Boult/London Philharmonic
No. 5: Tie between Boult/London Philharmonic and Previn/LSO
No. 6: Handley/Royal Liverpool Philharmoinc or Boult/London Philharmonic
No. 7: Boult/London Philharmonic or Bakels/Bournemouth Symphony
No. 8: Boult/London Philharmonic
No. 9: Boult/London Philharmonic and Previn/LSO
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