Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Serenade to Music

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Serenade to Music

by Robert Spano


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Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Serenade to Music

Brilliant programming is here undone by mediocre performances. Starting with Thomas Tallis' brief a cappella chorus "Why Fum'th in Fight" to lead into Ralph Vaughan Williams' ecstatic string orchestra "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" based on "Why Fum'th" was a brilliant idea. For the first time, listeners could hear the source and the elaboration side by side, and thereby take a truer measure of Vaughan Williams' genius. And following these with Vaughan Williams's sublime "Fifth Symphony" and rapturous "Serenade to Music" was likewise a brilliant idea. Together, the couplings and sequencing could have produced a persuasive portrait of Vaughan Williams as a later day musical saint. But it's all undone by the performances. Robert Spano is a talented conductor who has turned in many fine recordings for Telarc, and the Atlanta is one of the best American regional orchestras that has also turned in many fine recordings for Telarc. But while Spano's conducting here is technically assured, it fails to catch the spirit of the music. His themes are often quite expressive, but they don't so much develop as sprawl and don't so much climax as peter out. The Atlanta Symphony plays very well with a full sound and cogent ensemble, but the performances never really ignite. Norman MacKenzie's Atlanta Chamber Choir sings with a vigorous tone in the Tallis and a lush tone in the "Serenade," while the soloists in the "Serenade" range from the clarion soprano Jessica Rivera to the imposing baritone Nmon Ford, but their performances are not nearly enough to compensate for mundane playing and uninspired direction. Those who know the music will be disappointed and those who don't know the music are unlikely to be impressed. Stick with the canonical Boult and Barbirolli recordings of the Tallis "Fantasia" and "Fifth Symphony" and the Boult and especially the Wood recordings of the "Serenade to Music." Producer Elaine Martone and engineer Michael Bishop create a beautifully balanced and wonderfully realistic acoustic for the performances.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/24/2007
Label: Telarc
UPC: 0089408067624
catalogNumber: 80676
Rank: 175778


  1. Psalm Tunes (9) for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, for 4 voices: Why fum'th in fight?
  2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, for 2 string orchestras
  3. Symphony No. 5 in D major
  4. Serenade to Music, for orchestra (arranged from the choral work)

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