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Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ shaggy-dog first symphony is a huge choral piece in the best British tradition. For all its faults, the work nevertheless does justice both to the poetry of Walt Whitman, from which the text is taken, and to the majesty of the sea itself. The great British composer would go on to write better, more beautiful symphonies (numbers two through seven, inclusive), works with a surer musical grasp, but without the daring reach of A Sea Symphony. Unfortunately, Haitink captures little of these qualities in Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony, a bland, gun-to-his-head reading; nor is he aided by the indifferent singing of baritone Summers, who practically ruins the radiant slow movement, ”On the Beach at Night, Alone.” Better stick to the Sir Adrian Boult version; there was a recording worth its salt. D

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
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