The works on this CD cover over half a century of Ralph Vaughan Williams' (RVW) composing career and go a long way to explaining why he is probably the most international and well known British composer of the first half of the 20th Century.
RVW was happy to break boundaries and although he was taught by Bruch in Berlin and Parry and Stanford at the Royal College of Music, he rejected the straight jacket of German romanticism in favour of a more personal approach to composing. His time spent with Ravel in Paris crystallized his thinking and gave him his first major success with the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis – one of the finest string works to be written in the 20th Century.
The 1st World War also had a huge impact on his life and attitudes but before any of this happened he produced a number of works that showed a real talent for combining folk music with orchestral development, not least the Bucolic Suite of 1900 with a middle movement of great beauty and style.
His In the Fen Country of 1904 gives us a first taste of the orchestral colouring he was to bring to so many of his symphonies and the Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes from 1924/5 is a very fine work for cello and orchestra (that I didn't know and am very glad to discover). It is a perfect example demonstrating how he had developed over the ensuing 20 years.
He embraced film music and the final work here comes from a film depicting Elizabeth I and her court (Three Portraits). The film is largely forgotten today except for the music--it shows him taking the style of the 16th Century rather as he did in the Tallis Fantasia 45 years earlier.
The Rheinland orchestra under Karl-Heinz Steffens gives fine accounts of these lesser known corners of RVW's career and brings his great experience as former principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic to accompany Martin Rummel with fine sensitivity in the Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes.
A very satisfying disc to put on and enjoy and glass of good English ale!
The Poisoned Kiss Overture. 1927
Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes. 1924/5
Bucolic Suite. 1900
In the Fen Country. 1904
Three Portraits from “The England of Elizabeth". 1955.
Martin Rummel / Cello
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinfald-Pfalz
Karl Heinz Steffens / Conductor