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RVW's 9th

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Author Topic: RVW's 9th  (Read 1109 times)
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« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2013, 11:43:08 pm »

Is that Boult Everest recording the same one with Malcolm Arnold's 3rd Symphony?

The saxaphones are not very prominent in the VW's 9th except in the 3rd movement’s scherzo (the "cat’s chorale") where the effect is memorable.  From the outset in this movement, the emphasis is on clash.  It is full of minor seconds such as the F/G flat rub and tritones plus adds idea after idea all deployed with increasingly complex counterpoint and canons.  I love how innovative this movement is and how these various ideas which step on each other in bigger and increasingly more obnoxious ways ends with the cats scurrying away.  To my ears, it sounds very mischievous.  By the way, the “cat” description is not my idea – Vaughan Williams described it that way to his assistant, Roy Douglas.  I think the key to understanding this movement is to hear it as a transformation from something effective though heavy handed and predictable, towards something quite elusive, unstable, and unpredictable while showing an emphasis on unique timbres of the flugelhorn and saxophones.  This movement serves as a wonderful transformation to the dark solemn beauty that opens the finale.  It has a similar impact to me as the last two movements of Mahler's 9th symphony where the bewildering Rondo-Burleske yield to the solemn grand statement of the final Adagio movement.

Much of the criticism I've heard about this symphony deals with a perceived lack of structural integrity but I think its masterfully structured and carefully argued. 
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