Vaughan Williams Choral Works

Author: 
Andrew Achenbach

Vaughan Williams Choral Works

  • Dona nobis pacem
  • Sancta civitas

Richard Hickox and his excellent LSO forces continue to go from strength to strength. Here's a generous and inspiring coupling of two of VW's most important choral utterances, both directed to the manner born. Hickox coaxes some magnificent sounds from the LSO throughout: in Dona nobis pacem, for example, the sense of orchestral spectacle during ''Beat! Beat! drums!'' is riveting in its physical impact, as for that matter is the towering climax of the ''Dirge for Two Veterans'' later on in the same piece (a passage whose dynamics are unerringly well graduated here). As ever, the contribution of the London Symphony Chorus excitingly combines full-throated discipline and sensitivity to nuance, and Hickox's trio of soloists are all excellent, with Bryn Terfel in particular quite outstandingly eloquent (how this magnificent young baritone's superb singing beautifully complements his recent Sea Drift, also with Hickox, for Chandos, 11/93).
Of course, a brand-new recording of Sancta civitas, one of VW's most personal and visionary creations, was long overdue. It's a work whose multi-layered scoring places great demands on both conductor and production team alike: suffice to report, it's difficult to see Hickox's inspirational account of this still-underrated score (with its striking pre-echoes of Job and the Fourth Symphony) being surpassed for many years to come, whilst Andrew Keener's meticulous production possesses atmosphere and transparency in ideal measure.
The mid-price EMI Studio reissues of Boult's Dona nobis pacem (4/89) and Willcocks's Sancta civitas (5/89) didn't last long in the catalogue, but Thomson's admirable 1989 Chandos account of the former work remains—a deeply-felt realization, if without quite the refinement and rapt intensity of the new Hickox. EMI's thrillingly clean, wide-ranging Abbey Road sonics set the seal on a truly memorable pair of performances. This is unquestionably a major VW release.'

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