Vaughan Williams - Job, Symphony no.9
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Cat No: CHSA5180
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 27th January 2017
ArtistsBergen Philharmonic Orchestra
The score of Job places an emphasis on tableau-like scenes, dances, and mime, linking it to a tradition of English ballet with dances from the seventeenth century, including the saraband, pavane, and galliard. In this masterly score, Vaughan Williams captures the conflict between good and evil, between the spiritual and the material. Job shows a strength, beauty, nobility, and visionary power which unite the many different facets of Vaughan Williams’s musical style. The poignant and musically enigmatic Symphony No.9 marks ‘the end of Ralph’s life and [is] a turning point. It is leading out into another place. It is extraordinary’, as the composer’s wife stated after one of the early performances.
The subtle direction of Sir Andrew Davis combined with the pure sound quality of this SACD does full justice to Hickox’s great enterprise and promises a powerful conclusion of this already acclaimed recorded cycle.
1Job - Scene 1: Introduction, Pastoral Dance, Satan's Appeal To God
2Job - Scene 1: Sarabande Of The Sons Of God
3Job - Scene 2: Satan's Dance Of Triumph
4Job - Scene 3: Minuet Of The Sons Of Job And Their Wives
5Job - Scene 4: Job's Dream. Dance Of Plague, Pestilence, Famine And Battle
6Job - Scene 5: Dance Of The Messengers
7Job - Scene 6: Dance Of Job's Comforters. Job's Curse. A Vision Of Satan
8Job - Scene 7: Elihu's Dance Of Youth And Beauty
9Job - Scene 7: Pavane Of The Sons Of The Morning
10Job - Scene 8: Galliard Of The Sons Of Morning
11Job - Scene 8: Altar Dance
12Job - Scene 9: Epilogue
13Symphony No. 9 In E Minor - I. Moderato Maestoso
14Symphony No. 9 In E Minor - II. Andante Sostenuto
15Symphony No. 9 In E Minor - III. Scherzo: Allegro Pesante
16Symphony No. 9 In E Minor - IV. Andante Tranquillo
This new recording from Andrew Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra on Chandos is a splendid addition to the work’s discography. It may be less overtly characterful than the widely recommended David Lloyd-Jones recording on Naxos (where the English Northern Philharmonia bring out the Stravinskian flavours of the Pastoral Dance in Scene I), but the quality of playing and recording on the Chandos disc is consistently higher. Some details (for example, the harp glissandi in the ‘Minuet of the Sons of Job and Their Wives’) are less prominent, more integrated into the prevailing sumptuous sound-picture, but the sheer beauty of the more pastoral, reflective music is undeniably impressive. The oleaginous saxophone sighs in the ‘Dance of Job’s Comforters’ (Scene VI) are particularly successful here, while the great organ entry in the ‘Vision of Satan’ is staggering (the Rieger organ of Bergen Cathedral is a mighty instrument!). Perhaps the transition from Elihu’s Dance to the ‘Pavane of the Sons of the Morning’ could be more magical, but the Pavane itself is gloriously noble, and the closing pages have a heartfelt, bittersweet gentleness that is unmatched. In Davis’s reading, the fine details of the narrative of Job’s tribulations are less important than the overarching line of the work, and on these terms the performance is hugely powerful. And the top-drawer quality of the Bergen playing (as well as the recording, engineered by Ralph Couzens) places this account high up in a very competitive field.
As with Davis’s earlier BBCSO recording of Job on Teldec (now Warner), the generous coupling is Vaughan Williams’s final symphony, the enigmatic Ninth (1956-57). Initially inspired by Thomas Hardy’s masterpiece, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but with a programme that (in the composer’s words) ‘got lost along the way’, this is a work of uneasy lyricism that vies with darker, more incisive elements, before achieving a transcendent, otherworldly close. Once again the Bergen players bring an opulent quality to the music making, with plenty of bloom to the strings, properly forward saxophones (with important parts to play in the third and fourth movements), and vivid percussion in the middle two movements. The tolling of bells at the close of the Andante is a particularly affecting moment, and the symphony’s ending is wonderfully luminous and superbly balanced. More radiant, less earthbound than Davis’s BBCSO account, this is another exceptionally strong addition to the catalogue, making this a highly attractive disc. Stephen Connock’s booklet notes, particularly for Job, are exemplary, making it easy to follow the work’s unfolding scenario.
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