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Vaughan Williams:
Fantasia on Old 104th Psalm Tune
RVW.jpg

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: FANTASIA ON OLD 104TH PSALM TUNE (1949); LARK ASCENDING (1914, rev. 1919); PIANO QUINTET in C minor (1903, rev. 1905); ROMANCE FOR VIOLA AND PIANO (c.1914) [RESONUS RES10311 64’53’’]


Mark Bebbington (piano), Duncan Riddell (violin, Piano Quintet, Lark), Abigail Fenna (viola, Piano Quintet, Romance), Richard Harwood (cello, Piano Quintet), Benjamin Cunningham (double bass, Piano Quintet), City of London Choir, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Hilary Davan Wetton (Fantasia)


Producer Adam Binks
Engineers Dave Rowell (Piano Quintet, Fantasia), Adam Binks (The Lark Ascending, Romance)
Recorded 8, 9 June, 25 July 2022 at St John’s Smith Square, London

REVIEWS

Arcana.fm

"Forward some 35 years to the Fantasia (quasi variazioni) on the ‘Old 104th’ Psalm Tune – a piece whose infrequent performance is explained by the unlikely scoring for piano, chorus and strings but also the hybrid nature of its conception; the forthright nature of its four choral settings duly offset by the formal and expressive freedom of its alternating piano ‘cadenzas’ on route to a powerfully, even starkly drawn coda. Bebbington acquits himself with aplomb in the latter, while the City of London Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra respond with confidence to Hilary Davan Wetton..."

Midlands Classical Music Making
Vaughan Williams: Bebbington, Riddell, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Wetton (Resonus Classics) ★★★★

"In the flood of discs celebrating last year’s 150th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’ birth, this late-comer is one of the finest and includes three rarities... The final work is the most interesting, the ‘Fantasia on the “Old 104th” Psalm Tune’. Vaughan Williams' starting point was a 17th-century tune by Thomas Ravenscroft but the end product was a hybrid work for piano, orchestra and chorus premiered at Gloucester Cathedral in 1950. Conductor Hilary Davan Wetton balances the disparate forces well, with crisp singing from the The City of London Choir and Bebbington resplendent in the quasi-improvisatory piano part."
 

Colin Anderson, Colin’s Column 
"...the pianist rounds the disc off with Fantasia (quasi variazione) on the ‘Old 104th’ Psalm Tune (City of London Choir; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton), a curious fifteen-minute piece including piano cadenzas and passages for piano with chorus and orchestra, very well performed even if the music is perplexing; jubilant ending."
Excellent sound and presentation on Resonus RES10311.
Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine 
★★★★

 

Gramophone

"Back in 1970, Sir Adrian Boult recorded Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on the Old 104th Psalm Tune with Peter Katin, but the work has been ignored on record since. Its dramatic juxtapostions of Lisztian piano cadenzas with VW’s setting for choir and orchestra of Thomas Ravenscroft’s 17th-century psalm tune are stirringly captured on this new recording, where Mark Bebbington is the fiery soloist. Conductor Hilary Davan Wetton builds the piece effectively to a full-bore peroration, catching its occasionally unsettling mix of time-honoured sureties with a modern sense of dislocation."
 

Gramophone
"Top billing on the booklet cover goes to the ambitious Fantasia on the Old 104th, conceived for the same forces as Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and first performed at the 1950 Gloucester Three Choirs Festival under the composer, with Michael Mullinar (dedicatee of the Sixth Symphony) in the solo role. Unless I’m mistaken, this appears to be only its third commercial recording. Clocking in at around 15 minutes, it’s a set of seven variations (framed by a prelude and gloriously affirmative coda) on Thomas Ravenscroft’s noble 16th-century tune that also featured in The English Hymnal (No 178: ‘Disposer supreme, and judge of the earth’). By no means devoid of sparky invention, nourishing polyphony or festive splendour, the work also revels in some distinctively craggy piano-writing. Mark Bebbington proves a persuasive, concentrated and articulate exponent, and he is backed to the hilt by the City of London Choir and RPO under Hilary Davan Wetton...
Ripely truthful sound (Adam Binks) and helpful annotation (Nigel Simeone) bolster the appeal of this admirable release."

 

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