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CD Reviews: Classical CDs.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Vaughan Williams The Nine Symphonies etc (EMI Classics for Pleasure) This is an amazing seven-disc budget-price set which should be snapped up by anyone who already loves the music of this most uncompromisingly idiosyncratic English composer, or those anxious to acquaint themselves with his work.

Recently in a forum I chaired at the Presteigne Festival, composer John McCabe declared Vaughan Williams to be among the five voices from the past which spoke to him most, paying tribute to his strength of utterance as well as of technique. These reissued readings from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir under Vernon Handley, such a sympathetic advocate of so much British music, certainly bring those virtues to life.

Not only do we cherish here all nine symphonies, from the Whitmanesque A Sea Symphony to the terse and visionary Ninth Symphony of the composer's very last years, we can also enjoy a cornucopia of his smaller works, among which are the gorgeous Serenade to Music and the rare Partita for Double String Orchestra. The ballet Job (per-formed so stunningly by the CBSO under Sakari Oramo last year) is an important inclusion.

The insert notes miss an opportunity, speaking more to the converted insiders rather than thoseon the outside anxious to learn as much as possible about the compositions themselves.

HHHHHMozart & Stadler Basset-horn Divertimenti (ASV Gaudeamus) The quaint basset-horn, slightly more elongated than a clarinet (and therefore occasionally compressed, as witness the cover of this disc), has a sound almost as soul-baring as that of a saxophone. It featured in several of Mozart's latest works, notably the Requiem, as well as his two last operas, Die Zau-berflote and La Clemenza di Tito. This Birmingham Conservatoirefunded release brings us Divertimenti for basset-horn trio by Mozart and Anton Stadler, as well as a Duettino for two clarinets by the latter.

On the strength of such trivial works as these one can detect very little difference between the success of Mozart and his alleged arch-rival. Indeed, one can sense on occasion more personality in poor, pitiable Stadler's offerings than in Mozart's casual cast-offs.

Performances from Colin Lawson, Birmingham Conservatoire head of woodwind Michael Harris and Timothy Lines are loving, shapely and meticulous, and bring these original instruments vividly to life. One would not necessarily listen to this disc straight through in a single sitting, but for the most civilised of dinner parties.HHHH
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 21, 2002
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