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  Telarc -
  Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5, Tallis Fantasia - Spano
  Thomas Tallis: "Why Fum'th in Fight?", Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Symphony No. 5 in D major, Serenade to Music

Jessica Rivera (soprano)
Kelley O'Connor (mezzo soprano)
Thomas Studebaker (tenor)
Nmon Ford (baritone)
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus
Robert Spano (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 1

Reviews: 5 show all

Review by Livy April 27, 2007 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Recorded at the Woodruff Center, Atlanta, GA in 2006. DSD recording.

With the release of this disc, Telarc may have just produced one of its all-time great-selling SACD's. To start with, the program presented is four quite enjoyable works from a composer whose music appeals to almost everyone, including those who aren't classical music aficionados. Second, the performances themselves are great! Starting with the original Thomas Tallis choral work used by RVW in the Tallis Fantasia, the subsequent performance of the piece is just awesome. Spano isn't trying to fulfill any preconceived notions about tempi or vibrato - he's just letting what has become a world-class orchestra play this work as it should sound. Symphony 5 is equally remarkable for its clarity and the avoidance of mannerism. Paced well, played well, the Serenade to Music is sung well, and the recording? Like a bottle of Macallan 18 - very, very impressive on your first go-around and practically every time thereafter. Deep bass, smooth strings, great clarity with warmth, and clearly distinguishable separation of the second orchestra, which is evident in both the right front and right surround channels. My only critique, and it is a really minor one, is that I felt there was a slight overuse of the rear-channels at certain points. Notwithstanding Chandos' sonics in the Hickox' RVW cycle, I would think Telarc now has a strong case to make for having produced the best-sounding RVW on SACD (perhaps on anything, CD or otherwise...).

This is the kind of disc whose program will appeal to many on this forum and elsewhere. People here will most likely enjoy the performances and almost certainly the multi-channel sound.

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Review by Jonalogic July 20, 2010 (8 of 17 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I'm used to being a dissenter, so here is an alternate viewpoint. Now shoot me.

Peter Warlock's often-quoted comment that "it is all just a little too much like a cow looking over a gate" was actually about Vaughan Williams' overall style, rather than this particular symphony, Anyway, he would have been right, but for this performance of VW 5 only.

This is beautifully played, serene and spiritual. But VW was also a man of great fire and passion (note the explosive 4th and 6th symphonies which bracket this), and the best performances reflect this dichotomy- this one doesn't: it's all one mood and one feeling. So much worthiness at one go, it's like taking a couple of Mogadon. And I just LOVE this music. But one-note VW is not for me.

The same issue permeates the Tallis Fantasia; it's all reverent, hushed and dewy-eyed. But just listen to the great Barbirolli or Silvestri performances to hear what's missing.

Although I must admit that its juxtaposition with the original Tallis 4-part hymn ' Why fum'th in fight' is a masterstroke.

I haven't mentioned the sound yet- that's unusual for me. It sucks! I actually had to check a couple of times to see if it was actually playing the SACD rather than RBCD layer. It's bloated, fuzzy, unfocussed and - most noticeably - shockingly un-transparent. Really. No, it's not my high end gear, as soon as I put on a MoFi, BIS, Chandos, Caro Mitis... you get the idea... the see-through transparency is back!

On a broader note, I find Telarcs to be thoroughly inconsistent. Some - most noticeably the old Soundstream remasters - were good to excellent. More modern ones were a very mixed bag, suffering varously from:

1) Wow, look what a big bass drum I have!
2) Misty, distant balance
3) Under-balanced percussion (apart from the enormous bass drum, see #1)
4) Paavo Jarvi- don't start me on him, serial murderer of various 2Oth century classics (Stravinsky Rite, Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, Britten Young Person's Guide and many, many more)
5) Hey, my bass drum is STILL bigger than yours!

OK, I feel better, now, doctor. I'll come quietly.

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Review by fafnir April 28, 2007 (7 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I purchased this disc only for the two masterpieces - the Tallis Fantasia and the Serenade. In particular, the Serenade is so beautiful it is reputed to have moved Rachmaninoff to tears at its premier. Of the three versions of the score - a dreadful orchestra only, 16 soloists and orchestra, and a solo quartet with small chorus and orchestra - this version with a quartet, small chorus and orchestra seems to me to make the most sense. The recording and performance are both very fine, easily the best I have ever heard. Having a solo quartet spares the listener having to endure the usual gaggle of wobbly-voiced not-ready-for-prime-time soloists.

The Tallis Fantasia is preceded by Tallis's original tune, taking less than a minute, but setting the stage perfectly for VW's Fantasia. This is a master stroke of programming; I've never heard of this being done, perhaps because other recordings do not contain choral music. Once more the recording and performance has hit a home run. The rich mch acoustic provides an ideal frame for the music and the performance seems to me to be on a par with Barbirolli's.

Listening to the VW Symphony No. 5 was famously described by Aaron Copeland as being akin to staring at a cow for 45 minutes. It is probably not as bad as that (in fact I rather like the third movement), but IMO it can be safely recommended as a cure for insomnia. I realize that it has its admirers, particularly across the pond, but what can I say? As much as I like most of VW's Symphonies, this score as well as Sym 7 IMO are second rate. Spano gets what he can from the music; I think it's a better performance than Slatkin's, the only other recording of it that I have. Certainly, the recording is excellent, but I doubt I will ever play it again. I apologize for the curmudgeonly remarks concerning it.

Highly recommended for the Tallis and Serenade, and must-purchase if you admire the Symphony No. 5.

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Works: 4  

Thomas Tallis - Why Fum'th in Fight?
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (1910, rev. 1913/19)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Serenade to Music (1938)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 5 in D major (1938-43)