- Symphony No. 4 in F minor
- Symphony No. 6 in E minor
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra have been recording the nine symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams since the appearance of "A London Symphony" on the Hallé label in 2011, and as the cycle nears completion, the "Symphony No. 4 in F minor" and the "Symphony No. 6 in E minor" are paired for the penultimate CD in the series. These works may strike listeners as thorny and rather abrasive, quite unlike the gentle, pastoral moods usually associated with Vaughan Williams, and the darker tone of these symphonies has often been attributed to the ominous state of the world before and after World War II. Certainly the increased dissonance, angular melodies, and severe orchestration contribute to the pervasive feeling of tension that Vaughan Williams generated in both symphonies, though he regarded them as pure music, i.e., abstract works that have no programmatic associations, so making connections to war seems to miss the point. Instead, the "Symphony No. 4" and the "Symphony No. 6" may be responses to the pressures of modernism in the mid-20th century, and Vaughan Williams' increasingly complex approach to harmony and tonality may be the true source of musical tension. Elder and the Hallé give unexpectedly vibrant performances for such reputedly harsh works, and even though it is far from lush, the music has considerably more color and richer textures than some descriptions might convey. Highly recommended.