Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 4 & 5

Album review
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 4 & 5

Vaughan Williams

Symphonies 4 and 5

Label: TSO Live
Media: CD
Genre: Classical

Like many other symphonic institutions, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has established its own in-house record label. All six TSO Live releases to date have been conducted by Peter Oundjian, the Orchestra’s music director since 2004. Oundjian has an affinity for Vaughan Williams’ music, and this CD documents convincing concert performances of the composer’s two very different between- the-wars symphonies. The Fourth is among the most tortured and terrifying works in the symphonic repertoire and Oundjian doesn’t let up. The work’s loud, grinding tuttis are devastating and only rarely do the quieter interludes provide respite. Oundjian’s gift for shaping a melodic string line so it has a compelling dramatic contour comes through well— perhaps not surprising as he was first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet for 14 years. The Fifth Symphony is calmer and more “pastoral.” Yet here, too, Oundjian infuses a restless quality that keeps the listener deeply involved in the performance. Orchestral execution is first-rate: as examples, check out the oboe and English horn solos in No. 5’s third movement. TSO Live’s recording is relatively “hot”—high strings and trumpets playing loudly can get pretty aggressive. For Symphony No. 4, at least, maybe that’s not inappropriate.

More Info

  • primary artist, Toronto SO
  • composer, Vaughan Williams
  • CD

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