Originally published on April 9
If you would like a one-word review, that word is “tremendous”. These great Symphonies (both premiered by Sir Adrian Boult) – respectively written either side of World War Two – have found in Sir Antonio a charismatic and insightful interpreter, not afraid to take-off with this powerful music knowing that the LSO will be with him
The Sixth Symphony (recorded March 15 last year … then Lockdown) sears into life, industrial levels of intensity maintained until the lyrical tune (hinted at during the first movement’s course) finally offers an expansive beacon of hope if soon subsumed into the relentless second movement, ideally kept going here with a definable current without losing its sinister darkness, it’s rarely as compelling as this, then swept away by a macabre/sleazy-saxophone Scherzo (brought off with panache) that extinguishes into the wasteland Finale, pianissimo throughout, a direction duly observed yet with edge-of-seat expression, however numbed, and threadbare the sounds.
With the Fourth Symphony (December 12, 2019 – from a concert that included an impressive reading of Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra), another rollercoaster performance is unleashed, on a par with the composer’s own incendiary 1937 version (and Leonard Slatkin’s for that matter). Of particular note in this account is the inhospitable landscape that is the second movement, icily emotive. What follows (Scherzo and Finale, linked by a mysterious Beethoven 5-like transition) matches the first movement for firepower and spite as we ride to the abyss, no way out, the ultimate fateful chord thumped home.
We have had plenty of notable Vaughan Williams of late – not least from Brabbins, Elder and Manze – and this release from Pappano and the LSO is just as indispensable: played superbly and devotedly, recorded dynamically and impactfully, and also comprehensively capturing Pappano’s antiphonal violins and left-positioned basses, recognisably the Barbican Hall in fact.
LSO0867 [SACD] is released on April 16. The first link below leads to some apposite words from Sir AP.