Recorded in July last year, preceding Job (A Masque for Dancing), which is one of Vaughan Williams’s truly inspired pieces, bass-baritone Neal Davies illuminates Songs of Travel (originally with piano, then co-orchestrated by the composer and Roy Douglas) to good effect with some vivid and sensitive word-painting partnered by a sympathetic response from the Hallé. Much musical loveliness, scenic wonderment and depth of feeling is evinced, and the booklet includes the sung texts.
Mark Elder’s conducting of Job enters this masterwork’s discography with distinction. It may not quite emulate Sir Adrian Boult’s fourth and final recording (I have included this in the Anderson Archive’s section of this site) but is a moving and stimulating account, Elder especially in-tune with the many soulful-pastoral passages that inhabit this score … however, the devilish/dramatic ones can lack that last degree of fiery temperament, but there is much gained through Elder’s concern for dynamics and details, and the Hallé is in top form, very well recorded. A word for David Adams’s beautiful violin solo.
Despite Vernon Handley and Andrew Davis, the latter twice, there are gaps in Job recordings, especially from two stalwarts of VW’s Symphonies, the late André Previn (LSO/RCA) and Leonard Slatkin (Philharmonia, also RCA). Whether Previn ever conducted Job I know not, if he did maybe a radio tape will one day surface, whereas Slatkin does conduct Job (not least with the New York Philharmonic some years ago, and he made his London debut in 1974 replacing Boult for a programme that originally included Job, which the American did not then know and offered VW’s Sixth Symphony instead), so I hope for a Slatkin version one day. I believe that Andrew Manze will record Job as part of his Onyx/Liverpool cycle, and I’d like to think that Martyn Brabbins will do similarly for Hyperion (although he has yet to set-down Symphonies 6 to 9 – at present in the UK, Covid and large orchestras don’t cohabit).
Meanwhile, Elder’s Job grows in stature with each listen. Hallé CD HLL 7556.