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Cat. No. CHSA 5047 Price: £11.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHSA 5047 - Vaughan Williams: Overture to 'The Wasps'/ A Sea Symphony
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Available From: 01 February 2007
Reviews

Richard Hickox has a better grasp than most of this symphony as a whole statement – or, rather, a journey… The choral singing is as alert and secure as one would expect from Hickox, and the balance with the orchestra is well-judged too, with some fine detail emerging more clearly than on any recording I’ve heard before.
BBC Music Magazine

Even by his own standards, this disc is an outstanding achievement for the indefatigable Hickox. The ‘filler’ comes first – a bracing account of The Wasps overture written in 1909 while Vaughan Williams was completing the main work, his Symphony No. 1, ‘A Sea Symphony’, a four movement choral setting of Walt Whitman verses. Few versions since Boult’s classic first recording have exuded such sheer exhilaration and depth of felling as the one featured here and, of course the 1952 recorded sound bears no comparison with Chandos’s. With two gifted soloists, this elegantly presented and superbly engineered disc must now be the frontrunner for the work.
Classic FM

…the account of “A Sea Symphony” was little short of a triumph.
Richard Whitehouse

The chorus was on rousing form throughout and soon swung into the undulating foam with the LSO and Hickox in equally vigorous pursuit. The excellent baritone soloist Gerald Finley sounded a note of awestruck wonder in On the Beach at Night Alone, while soprano Susan Gritton soared radiantly in the expansive outer movements.
Barry Millington, Evening Standard

His {Hickox’s] tempos are conventional, much like those of Boult, but slower than the more active Haitink. The soloists are very good, and the 170-member LSO chorus is really smashing – indeed, overpowering sometimes. The LSO itself, about the best UK orchestra currently, is also at the top of its form…This Chandos SACD offering is distinguishes by the sheer presence, accuracy, solidity, and stability of its distortionless sonic image and its wide range of dynamics. It is truly sound of demonstration quality.
American Record Guide

Hickox, I think, is always at his best when there’s a chorus involved, so it’s no surprise that his traversal of the symphony is so effective. The outer movements have plenty of sweep, the slow movement is atmospheric, and the Scherzo is good and tight…The choral work, as you’d expect from Hickox, is first-rate…The soloists are both quite fine…
Fanfare

There’s a rigour and satisfying sense of scale about his approach that is established in the opening brass fanfare and the chorus’s invocation which never falters… The soloists are glorious too.
The Guardian

The previous instalments in Richard Hickox’s cycle of Vaughan Williams’s nine symphonies have consistently proved themselves to the valuable additions to the composer’s discography, and this latest issue is no exception… the opening of the slow movement and spacious opening and closing of the finale have rarely sounded so profound as in Hickox’s skilled hands. His two soloists Susan Gritton and Gerald Finley, bring both understanding and vocal refinement to Walt Whitman’s metaphysical poetry, while the London Symphony Chorus adds its own vocal weight and polish.
The Telegraph

Richard Hickox conducts a robust and moving performance of this English choral masterpiece. This performance, recorded after a Barbican concert last summer, is notable above all for Gerald Finley’s inspired singing. He is especially fine in the ‘Explorers’ finale where he achieves transcendence in the visionary central section. His soprano partner is Susan Gritton, in radiant voice and sounding like the nearest successor to Isobel Baillie in this work. The LOS Chorus is thrilling in climaxes and gives a virtuoso account of the scherzo, ‘The Waves’, in which the soloists are silent. A must for lovers of the work and its composer.
Sunday Telegraph

The choral part is of course huge, but Hickox (once chorus master of this very choir) knows absolutely what he is about and gets pristine articulation in the Scherzo and generally (and unusually) much subtlety of tone throughout: listen to the intensity at ‘O vast rondure, swimming in space’, which starts the fourth movement, or the exultant shouts of the very opening. This performance has the measure of this mighty work: its mystery, its transcendence, but also its optimism, its questioning and its sheer animal spirits. It is a very fine achievement indeed. The choral part is of course huge, but Hickox (once chorus master of this very choir) knows absolutely what he is about and gets pristine articulation in the Scherzo and generally (and unusually) much subtlety of tone throughout: listen to the intensity at ‘O vast rondure, swimming in space’, which starts the fourth movement, or the exultant shouts of the very opening. This performance has the measure of this mighty work: its mystery, its transcendence, but also its optimism, its questioning and its sheer animal spirits. It is a very fine achievement indeed.
International Record Review

Quotes from the performance:
Gritton’s fearless and star-bright soprano waved the flags of the nations, and with [Geralrd] Finley, finally hoisted the anchor to set free the voyaging soul.

Hilary Finch, The Times, 06 June 2006

 

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