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

  • Remembering Clark Terry: A Celebration of the Late Jazz Trumpeter

    Ann Porotti sat down with Charlottesville dance educator Anne Megibow, Clark Terry’s goddaughter, on the February 25th edition of All That Jazz to celebrate the life and music of Clark Terry, who passed away on Saturday, February 21st at the age of 94. Clark Terry was described in a New York Times obituary as, “one of […]

  • Feb 28 Gather Round: Liz Carroll & John Doyle at The Prism (2001)

    Gather ‘Round each Saturday night from 8-9 for WTJU Folk‘s concert series; both archived and live. There will be shows from The Prism Coffeehouse and VA Folklife archives mixed in with some from our announcers’ own libraries. And you never know when a live concert might pop up!  This week’s program comes from The Prism […]

  • WTJU Presents Solas at The Jefferson Theater, Feb 26

    WTJU is delighted to present Solas in concert at The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on Thursday, February 26.  Opening for them will be members of the Blue Ridge Irish Music School. Before Solas heads over to The Jefferson Theater for sound check, this internationally renowned band will first stop by the WTJU studios for a […]

  • On With The Show now weekly .. and a new Thursday morning host

    On With The Show, our biweekly program devoted to musical theater, has been such a success with listeners that it will now be heard every Friday evening 6-8 pm, here on WTJU. Thom Pease is your Master of Ceremonies, ably assisted by Charles Peale and Brad Sayler.  We hope you’ll tune in, get your feet […]

  • Renee Fleming and Olga Kern at the Paramount

    When it was announced that opera star Renee Fleming and pianist Olga Kern would appear at the Paramount in Charlottesville on February 20, a sellout was virtually guaranteed. Renee Fleming is one of opera’s brightest stars, and having an internationally known soloist like Olga Kern as her accompanist was an added bonus. Fleming is one […]

  • jazz adds february 23, 2015

    nilson matta.  east side rio drive.  world blue.  Brazil and its first cousin jazz Americano dive into arrangements by leader/bassist, Sao Paulo native nilson matta with humberto leder.  national characteristics harmonize together:  NoLa reed master (tenor + bass clarinet) craig handy and flutist anne drummond share their post-modern splash with guitarist romero lubambo, and cyro […]