Thursday, 8 February 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, February 2018)

Sinfonia Antartica / Concerto for 2 Pianos
Bergen Philharmonic / Sir Andrew Davis
Chandos 5186 / *****

Ever watched a movie and wondered whether its stirring music could be also heard in the concert hall? It is now commonplace to hear John Williams' Star Wars or Harry Potter music in concert but one of the pioneers was English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1972-1958) who adapted his film score for Scott Of the Artarctic (1948) and turned it into his Seventh Symphony (1951).

His Sinfonia Antartica is a masterpiece in five movements, its evocative orchestration capturing the terrifying majesty of the South Pole and Captain Scott's ill-fated expedition. The inclusion of wordless soprano, women's chorus, wind machine, pipe organ and lots of brass guarantees an aural spectacular which Sir Andrew Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic (Norway) deliver with aplomb.

The piano duo of Louis Lortie and Helene Mercier do the honours in Vaughan Williams' Concerto For Two Pianos (1946), an adaptation by Joseph Cooper of his 1930 Piano Concerto which was considered too demanding by its original soloist. Cast in C major, the work brings together contrapuntal complexities and an unusual whimsical flair, capped by a starkly beautiful central slow movement. His orchestrated Four Last Songs (1954-58) with baritone Roderick Williams is the added bonus to this excellent disc of varied offerings.        

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