Manze’s Too-Tepid Vaughan Williams 5 & 6

Review by: Victor Carr Jr

manzevaughanwilliams

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

Andrew Manze’s lite-touch manner works better in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5, where he successfully conveys the music’s pastoral and elegiac modes, especially in the serene slow movement, which features lovely playing by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic strings.

This approach doesn’t really suit the angrily dramatic Sixth, however. Manze’s swift and propulsive tempos generate much energy and vitality, but his lighter textures, soft attacks, and easy utterances deny Vaughan Williams’ stern rhetoric its full impact. A quick listen to the classic Previn or the more recent Bakels recordings reveals greater levels of ferocity and tension. Their opening passages sound threatening, while Manze’s are merely agitated. Likewise the intended effect is lessened in the slow movement’s arresting climax, where the conductor strives to generate tension through speed rather than gravity.

Again, the RLPO delivers first-rate, professional playing, but it’s somewhat obscured by the dim-sounding recording. Not a choice RVW disc.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bakels (Naxos); Previn (RCA); Haitink (Warner)


    Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Manze


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