A uniquely expressive account
London Symphony Orchestra
André Previn was principal conductor of the LSO for most of the 1970s, and during that period they made many wonderful recordings together. This A Pastoral Symphony was among the best of them, and it continues to set a high bar for other interpretations to aspire to.
The LSO was packed with outstanding section leaders at the time, and the quality of the solo playing eclipses that on any other recording. Violinist John Georgiadis, clarinettist Gervase de Peyer and flautist William Bennett all make telling contributions, as do the oboe and viola soloists, while the important horn and trumpet solos in the second movement are plangently expressive.
Previn’s shaping of the Pastoral has an organic, naturally unravelling quality that is deeply satisfying, and invites repeated listening. The dip and swell of VW’S
The inherent sadness is mitigated by the dignified beauty of the LSO’S playing
string writing in the opening movement is sentiently registered, its uneasy dynamic surges unsettling the listener without grandstanding or over-emphasis.
The third movement has a grungy, glowering demeanour owing much to the LSO’S unshakable corporate virtuosity and Previn’s rhythmic trenchancy.
Again, though, Previn deftly avoids overstatement – the physical threat carried in the music is palpable, but there is no unnecessary pummelling. The jittery fugal coda is incisively delivered, and for once seems more than a quizzical afterthought.
★eather ★arper is an ideally steady, heartfelt soloist in the finale, her ‘distant’ placing (VW’S stipulation) not so distant that she is audibly in a different acoustic. The inherent sadness of the movement is mitigated by the dignified beauty of the LSO’S playing, shaped by Previn with unfailing sensitivity and insight. Together they find a moving positivity at the symphony’s conclusion, more stirringly articulated than in any other version.
The classic analogue sound is another telling factor in Previn’s favour. No other CD version of the Pastoral holds Vaughan Williams’s subtly intertwining textures so clearly in focus, and there is a tonal richness and plenitude which often seems absent in digital recordings.
Previn’s LSO cycle of the Vaughan Williams symphonies comes and goes in the CD catalogue, regularly finding itself deleted and then repackaged and reissued. It is, however, always available to download or stream. ★is Pastoral is a classic, the complete cycle an enduring cornerstone of the VW discography.
Orchestral craftsman: André Previn conducts the LSO in the early 1970s