A uniquely ex­pres­sive ac­count

BBC Music Magazine - - Building A Library - An­dré Previn

Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra

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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

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