Vaughan Williams: Piano Quintet; The Lark Ascending; Romance for viola and piano; Fantasia on the old 104th Psalm
Label: Resonus Classics
Released: December 2, 2022
Catalog Num: RES10311

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
City of London Choir
Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor
Mark Bebbington, piano
Duncan Riddell, violin
Abigail Fenna, viola
Richard Harwood, cello
Benjamin Cunningham, double bass

British pianist Mark Bebbington’s third recording for Resonus Classics is an album of less well-known works by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

For the inclusion of an almost totally neglected orchestral work of around 15 minutes, the Fantasia (Quasi Variazione) on the Old 104th, for solo piano, choir and orchestra, Bebbington is joined by the City of London Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor, Hilary Davan Wetton.

“It’s a fascinating work, full of musical and philosophical contradictions”, said Bebbington; “the choir and orchestra proclaim the spiritual certainties of the 104th Psalm text, but the piano in three massive solo cadenzas, speaks a language of uncertainty and ambivalence with piano writing that draws on Busoni and late Beethoven – but it is essentially entirely unto itself in its startling originality.”

“Until a performance I gave with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and City of London Choir at the Barbican in May, the work had not been heard on a central London stage since its performance at a 1949 Prom, shortly after its premiere at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester: a hiatus of over seventy years. Perhaps the ambivalence of the message of the work went down less well in the post-WW2 era of its premiere, but it is a potent anthem for our own troubled times.”

Coupled with the 104th Fantasia are Vaughan Williams’s early Piano Quintet of 1904 and the Romance for viola and piano, (the viola being the composer’s favourite instrument), and the evergreen The Lark Ascending in its original 1914 version for violin and piano.

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