Ralph Vaughan Williams Early Chamber Works

Ralph Vaughan Williams withdrew many of the works he wrote before 1907. Based on this release, he was too modest. In this collection of early chamber music performed by the London Solists Ensemble, one can tell RVW’s compositional voice isn’t fully formed, but there’s a simple beauty in them, nevertheless.

The disc opens with the 1903 piano quintet in C minor. Although RVW would withdraw it a few years later, at the time he considered it one of his most important compositions. There’s a dramatic sweep and expansiveness that keeps things moving along. Sometimes it sounds as if Vaughan Williams is trying a little too hard to top Brahms (or perhaps Schubert — the works shares the same instrumentation as the “Trout” quintet). On the whole, though, it’s a solid work, looking forward to RVW’s pre-war masterpieces.

The 1898 Quintet in D major for violin, cello clarinet, horn and piano is a thrilling, late romantic work. RVW employs a free-wheeling style, letting the evocative melodies unfold as they will. But while the work may follow Germanic romantic tradition, there’s still a certain Englishness to the music. I heard it in the harmonic progressions that sometimes employ the false relationships of English renaissance music.

It was only after his death that RVW’s “Roomance for Viola and Piano was discovered. This short work features a sinuously weaving melody sounds like it could have been an early sketch for “The Lark Ascending” (although it wasn’t). Violist Sarah-Jane Bradley gives an emotional reading to this welcome rediscovery.

“Six Studies in English Folk Song” (1926) has seen many incarnations. Originally written for cello and piano, Vaughan Williams arranged it for other instruements, including the clarinet version heard here. Anthony Pike playes these small tunes in a quiet, straight-forward fashion in an utterly charming performance.

Of course this is a must-have for Vaughan Williams compleatists. But these (mostly) suppressed works are of sufficient quality that most anyone who enjoys chamber music would appreciate the music on this album.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Piano Quintet in C minor; Romance for Viola and Piano; Quintet in D major for violin, cello, clarinet, horn, and piano; Six Studies in English Folk Song for clarinet and piano
London Soloists Ensemble
Naxos

More Recent Posts

  • Bizet – Roma Symphony

    There’s more to Bizet than “Carmen.” And while the works on this new collection aren’t likely to replace Bizet’s greatest hit, they do provide insight into the composer’s style and make for some enjoyable light listening. The disc starts with the Marche funébre in B minor. It’s not quite the downer you might think. Bizet’s […]

  • Bobby Rush Interview 3/19/2012

    The indestructible King of the Chitlin Circuit, Bobby Rush, is interviewed about one of his many recent releases and his past in Blues music. You can download the interview here or stream it live below:

  • New Blues News – 8/31/2015

    New Blues News – 9/1/2015 Andy T – Nick Nixon Band – Numbers Man (Blind Pig): Vocalist Nick Nixon and co-leader / guitarist Andy T Talamantez present a totally solid disc spanning from blues to zydeco to old R&B. There’s even a slick, slightly funky instrumental! Nixon is a strong declarative baritone singer and Andy […]

  • The Blue Eyed Bettys on Folk & Beyond, Sept 3

    The Blue Eyed Bettys will stop by the WTJU studios Thursday afternoon, September 3, around 4:30 (edt) for a visit to Folk & Beyond.  They will be putting on a concert the previous evening at The Barn at Lamppost Cottage.

  • Mipso on Lambeth Live, Sept 18

    In celebration of their latest CD, Old Time Reverie, Chapel Hill, North Carolina act Mipso will put on the September 18 edition of Lambeth Live, and you are invited!  Doors open at 7:30 pm, and the one hour FREE concert starts at 8 pm. For those unable to be there to be part of the studio […]

  • Tret Fure on Lambeth Live, Sept 11

    In celebration of her latest CD, Rembrandt Afternoons, singer/songwriter Tret Ture will put on the September 11 edition of Lambeth Live, and you are invited!  Doors open at 7:30 pm, and the one hour FREE concert starts at 8 pm. For those unable to be there to be part of the studio audience, you can of […]