VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No 5, etc – Hickox
Richard Hickox launches his long-awaited VW symphony cycle for Chandos with an exceptionally powerful yet deeply moving account of the Fifth. Complemented by some glowing (and excitingly wide-ranging) engineering, Hickox’s is an urgently communicative reading which, in its comprehensive emotional scope and touching fervour, puts me in mind of two earlier versions with this same orchestra – namely Bryden Thomson’s vibrant (and underrated) 1987 performance and Andre Previn’s highly characterful RCA recording. Under Hickox’s long-breathed, confident direction, the first and third movements in particular emerge with an effortless architectural splendour and rapt authority, the climaxes built and resolved with mastery (and both codas, too, have a tingling concentration about them). The scherzo is as good a place as any to sample the lustrous refinement of the LSO’s response (their golden-toned cello section consistently catches the ear throughout). Come the mighty reprise in the finale, and Hickox rightly refuses to overplay his hand, with results that are infinitely more edifying than on Kees Bakels’s recent Bournemouth rendering (see below). Moreover, Hickox ensures that the symphony’s concluding bars positively glow with gentle ecstasy, and here is a Fifth that can surely hold its own in the most exalted company – to my mind, probably the most perceptive modern display we’ve had since Handley’s distinguished 1986 conception with the RLPO.
Of course, Hickox has already shown himself a consummate interpreter of VW’s ‘morality’,