Vaughan Williams: Piano Concerto, Serenade To Music, Etc / Oundjian, Toronto Symphony
The Chandos catalogue already boasts a superb performance of the Piano Concerto by Howard Shelley, coupled with the Ninth Symphony in Bryden Thompson’s rather forgotten yet quite brilliant series. Canadian pianist Louis Lortie is outstanding in this new performance.
Listeners should pay keen attention to this beautiful performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal oboe, Sarah Jeffrey. She is absolutely in sympathy with the music, producing a most pleasing tone, and is in complete command of the work’s technical demands.
Serenade to Music was originally composed for sixteen solo voices. The composer conceived the work for particular singers whose solo passages are marked with their initials in the score, but he was always keen to adapt works in order to secure performances. This performance uses just four soloists alongside the admirable Elmer Iseler Singers, a group of twenty or so voices. Thus, the soprano, for example, sings solo passages that were originally assigned to four different singers and, no doubt, tailored to each particular voice. I expected to miss the change of vocal quality from one phrase to another, but in the end this didn’t bother me at all, perhaps because the soloists are so distinguished. Peter Oundjian’s pacing of the work is ideal, and the sounds he coaxes from his excellent orchestra are as ravishing as they should be in this work.
Teng Li is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal viola player, and she plays Flos Campi as if it really means something to her. She produces a rich, nourished tone and plays the more robust passages without the slightest suggestion of roughness. Her viola really speaks, her playing richly communicative. The choir is excellent, the orchestra too, and by careful attention to Vaughan Williams’s markings, Oundjian achieves something very special.
Peter Oundjian’s work in Toronto was marked by a number of recordings of Vaughan Williams symphonies on the orchestra’s own label. Here, on Chandos, he treats us to a mouth-watering programme that more than deserves a place in any Vaughan Williams collection.
– MusicWeb International
The solo playing by Toronto Symphony principal Teng Li offers deep weight of tone, rapturous phrasing, and a musical personality that mesmerises the ear; the choral singing is superbly focused and (easier said than done) flawlessly in tune, with a classy orchestral accompaniment to match. Sarah Jeffrey (also a Toronto principal) is at first less impressive in the Oboe Concerto, her playing increasingly searches out the music’s poignant heart, memorably so in the finale.
– BBC Music Magazine
Catalog Number: CHSA 5201
Period: 20th Century
Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor: Peter Oundjian
Orchestra/Ensemble: Elmer Iseler Singers, Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Performer: Carla Huhtanen, Emily D'angelo, Lawrence Wiliford, Louis Lortie, Sarah Jeffrey, Teng Li, Tyler Duncan