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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Ending The Year With Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel

By Norman Lebrecht on December 29, 2017

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos)
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos)

★★★★ (out of five)

At the turn of the 20th century, the world was wide open to a young man of means. Ships were getting faster, trains more frequent and motor cars were appearing on the roads. Faced with these exciting possibilities, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams decided to stay home, collecting the remains of a musical civilization that was being trampled by the march of technology. He recorded people singing in pubs and fields. Then he wrote Songs of Travel.

The set, dated 1901 to 1904, is at once generically English and altogether original. ‘Let Beauty Awake’ is probably the best-known song but the entire 24-minute sequence for tenor and piano is outstanding for its serenity and Arcadian self-assurance.

Every British tenor has sung the set down the past century. James Gilchrist’s interpretation is notable for its lack of sentimentality, recapturing the individuality of a young man’s struggle from external agendas of national identity, as pressing now as they were a century ago. Anna Tilbrooke (piano) plays along with intuitive sympathy. Philip Dukes joins them for a set of folk songs with viola and piano accompaniment. Perfect fare for the last days of the year.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos) is available Jan 5, 2018, at amazon.ca and iTunes.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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SCRUTINY | Bravissimo Bids An Operatic Fond Farewell To 2017

By Joseph So on January 2, 2018

What’s that famous Christmas song lyrics that goes something like “The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…”? If you substitute fire with opera, it pretty much sums up the scenario last evening at Roy Thomson Hall, with Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits bidding a fond farewell to 2017.
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2017 REWIND | Our Favourite Concerts Of 2017

By Ludwig Van on December 29, 2017

Ludwig van Toronto's editorial team reflects on their favourite concert events of the 2017 season.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | The Delta Piano Trio Stays True To Shostakovich And Auerbach

By Norman Lebrecht on December 22, 2017

As the last releases of the year drop through the door, Delta Piano Trio's The Mirror With Three Faces is an instant ear-grabber.
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