We loved it anyway, but it's better than we all thought...
John Armstrong 2002
Should this cd have been made at all? When a composer is unhappy with a work and alters it himself, have we any right to ignore his wishes? Vaughan Williams actually revised the London Symphony three times, pruning it, removing material...about 20 minutes of music in all. And when you hear it restored, the symphony has changed...looser, yes, but more mysterious. You can understand why some of the composer's friends were sorry he'd cut the symphony, and it's good to have a chance to hear the original 1913 version for the first time - but you couldn't recommend it if the performance wasn't up to scratch. It is: Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra have come up with a recording that you can cheerfully measure against most others in the catalogue, before you consider its unique extra charms!
Richard Hickox told me recently that if it wasn't for Vaughan Williams' insecurities about the length of the original London Symphony, he'd never have removed what turned out to be some of the most startling and original sections of the piece. Permission was given just for this one recording, no public performances, but Ursula Vaughan Williams has been so delighted by the recording, and the enthusiasm with which it's been received, that there will now be a concert. Hickox also told me about the astonishment of the players at the recording session, when they'd played through what's a very familiar work and suddenly turned a page to find some completely new sounds and ideas...it's changed the way they, and everyone who's listened to the recording with such delight, think of this favourite British symphony. We loved it anyway, but it's better than we all thought, and no wonder Gramophone Magazine has made it Record of the Year, 2001.
Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3