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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

By Norman Lebrecht on January 17, 2020

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 3 and 4 (Hyperion)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 3 and 4 (Hyperion)

★★★☆☆

🎧 Apple Music | Amazon

With Australia in flames, Italian cities choked by smog and parts of Canada enjoying an unseasonal thaw, I’m listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony, a lament for pre-1914 rhythms of life. The composer, who served in his 40s as an ambulance driver on the French front lines, had seen too much there ever to imagine that the old ways could be resumed, a recognition that intensifies his regret. The 3rd symphony is a requiem for rolling hills and ancient hedgerows, for arts and crafts, for simple pleasures in candlelight. A new recording by Martin Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra slightly overstates the lament, but that may just reflect the present climate emergency. This symphony feels more relevant now than ever before.

The 4th symphony, from the early 1930s, is Sibelius by any other name. Bleak and monochrome, it stares into an unspecified abyss, offering little hope until the vaguely jaunty, occasionally ominous finale. Good as these performances are, they lack the traction of historic recordings by Adrian Boult (Symphony 3) and Dmitri Mitropoulos (Symphony 4). A reticent composer like Vaughan Williams requires cask-strength advocacy and sudden jolts and unexpected moments. These brews are a tad too smooth, but nonetheless impressive.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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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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Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Glenn Gould Prize Announces Jury Including Hilary Hahn And Laurie Anderson

By Michael Vincent on September 17, 2020

The Glenn Gould Foundation has named an eclectic mix of judges for the thirteenth Glenn Gould Prize this year.
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THE SCOOP | Toronto Symphony Announces New Drive-In Concert Series

By Michael Vincent on September 17, 2020

In a new partnership with CityView Drive-In, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will present three live and in-person performances next month.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | A Lesson In Getting Along Together

By Norman Lebrecht on September 18, 2020

This new release blends music from the major seaboard cultures — Greek, Italian, Judeo-Spanish and Arab — with arias from Baroque operas that are rooted in the same shores.
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