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

  • “Soup! There It Is” cook off to benefit WTJU

    Join WTJU for our first-ever soup cook-off fundraiser! Sunday, February 26 at 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM Fry’s Spring Beach Club 2512 Jefferson Park Ave in Charlottesville It’s kinda like the chili cook-offs you know about, but with a twist. Your ticket supports excellent community radio and gets you: 1) Tastings of all the soups […]

  • Taarka stop by WTJU, Jan 20

    Described by San Francisco Weekly as a “collision of Django Reinhardt and David Grisman,” Colorado quartet Taarka will stop by the WTJU studios this Friday afternoon, at 4 (est) for a live performance in our lounge.  Later that evening, they will put on a concert at C’Ville Coffee presented by The Prism Coffeehouse in partnership […]

  • Charlottesville Jazz Society and WTJU Present Hungarian Pianist Daniel Szabo

    On Saturday, January 21, 2017, WTJU is pleased to join the Charlottesville Jazz Society in presenting Hungarian pianist Daniel Szabo in concert, with Robert Jospe on drums and Pete Spaar on bass. This event, to be held at The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist, is also made possible in part with support from the […]

  • Professor Bebop’s Final Friday Night Show – Jan 13

    For nearly 40 years, Professor Bebop has helped kick off the weekend with a generous helping of groovy Rhythm and Blues. Tonight, from 11pm-1am, catch his final Friday night show. Catch the Show Live Dave Rogers, aka Professor Bebop, has been combining wit, deep research, and a true love of musical expression into his iconic show […]

  • Bernard Cuiller plays William Byrd

    Pescodd Time is part of Alpha Classic’s ongoing reissue series of significant early music recordings. The disc was the first recorded by harpsichordist and conductor Bertrand Cuiller and showcases his love of English renaissance music — particularly that of William Byrd. I don’t have the original release, so I can’t say if it’s been remastered. […]