Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No 3); Symphony No 4 in F minor

Reviewed on Mon 15 May, 2017

The angry Fourth Symphony is delivered with commendable poise, but I could have done with more unbridled fire and crackling tension, a greater sense of the notes tumbling out.

This second volume in Andrew Manze's Vaughan Williams symphony cycle for Onyx Classics (Volume 1 was reviewed on 19 May 2016) couples polished accounts of the Third and Fourth symphonies featuring the estimable Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. As Lewis Foreman points out in the booklet, No 3 (A Pastoral Symphony) is in fact a war symphony, illustrating the peaceful scenes at dawn and dusk, after the battle. These players produce the delicacy and peace of such moments with expert composure. Composed in the early 1930s, the Fourth is entirely different again, a fierce premonition of raging and tension to come. Manze presides over an articulate, texturally detailed rendition that one would be perfectly happy to encounter in the concert hall. For this reviewer, however, it's not quite the whole story. The score is delivered with commendable poise, but I could have done with more unbridled fire and crackling tension, a greater sense of the notes tumbling out. Nevertheless, it's a distinctive point of view, bringing clarity to the music.
–Ivor Solomons