This is the 5th instalment in Richard Hickox's widely well-received Vaughan Williams cycle and it is also the first one to include two symphonies with the previous issues being single disc versions. Hickox also includes an intriguing world première in the shape of a long lost Nocturne for baritone and orchestra which is an essential addition for those interested in such curios.
The 6th Symphony goes well enough with some gorgeous playing from the London Symphony in the Moderato. The opening isn't quite so savage as in Boult's impeccable 1953 version (Decca) but it is definitely better than the later Boult (EMI) or the previous Thomson also on Chandos. The final two movements are also deeply felt by both conductor and orchestra with the Epilogue as stark and barren as you would ever expect. I would rate this new version on a par with the Handley recording on EMI as the best modern interpretation now available.
The same goes for the Eighth with Hickox providing a strong and very competitive version that ultimately falls short of the outstanding intensity in Boult's première recording of this work on Decca. The Cavatina benefits from Chandos' state-of-the-art recording and the final Toccata is as dashing as you would expect. Ultimately, I would want both versions in my collection alongside the excellent Handley who is the other outstanding digital alternative.
What really clinches this disc's place in desirability is its inclusion of that long lost Nocturne. This is a beautiful piece, most exquisitely sung by Roderick Williams is a major discovery for the Vaughan Williams enthusiast. The usual detailed notes and outstanding presentation only add to the undeniable strengths of this first rate issue.
Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech