Superb Vaughan Williams from Hallé

Sir Mark Elder, with his Hallé forces, provides us with two more fine accounts of Vaughan Williams’ symphonies. Here we have the composer’s fourth and sixth symphonies.

After the poetic nature of Vaughan Williams first three symphonies, the audience, at the Queen’s Hall in April 1935, must have been taken aback by the severity of his fourth symphony with its abrasive dissonance. Symphony No. 6 was completed after the second world war in 1947. It quickly became dubbed Vaughan Williams ‘War Symphony’. However the composer rejected the notion of the music having a programme and indeed is reported to have remarked ‘I suppose it never occurs to these people that a man might just want to write a piece of music’. Be that as it may both works come across as being full of mixed emotions; there is anguish and violence aplenty and at times a clear sense of desolation.

Readers unfamiliar with these works should not think that all is loud and violent, even in the fourth symphony there are some comparatively quiet intimate passages of music. As we have come to expect from this team in Vaughan Williams the playing is of a very high standard and Elder builds climaxes most effectively avoiding the all out onslaught favoured by some conductors.

The recording is excellent and captures the dynamic range very well. Five stars for both the performance and the engineering.

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