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Hyperion Records

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Scene from The Merchant of Venice (1828) by Francis Danby (1793-1861)
Reproduced by courtesy of The Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA66420
Recording details: February 1990
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: September 1990
Total duration: 12 minutes 26 seconds

'Profoundly moving' (Gramophone)

'Strongly recommended!' (Fanfare, USA)

'Performances like these don't come along very often; each one is an absolute winner, and with rich, atmospheric recording quality the satisfaction is of a very special quality' (CDReview)

Fantasia on Christmas Carols
First line:
This is the truth sent from above
author of text
Various carols

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Like the Mystical Songs, the Fantasia on Christmas Carols was introduced by the composer at a Three Choirs Festival, this time at Hereford in 1912. It was the first of several works inspired by the idea of Christmas, others being the masque On Christmas Night, the Nativity play The First Nowell, the great cantata Hodie (which includes a George Herbert setting). The Fantasia is notable both for its restraint (it is by far the least showy of Vaughan Williams’s Christmas pieces, but I’m sure the composer wasn’t intentionally setting out to please the high-minded), and also for the fact that it avoids the most familiar carols. This undoubtedly was intentional: Vaughan Williams wanted to give a wider lease of life to beautiful tunes like ‘On Christmas night’, which he himself had collected in Sussex. Beginning with an introductory cello solo which has a narrative quality (‘Once upon a time’—or should it be ‘In the beginning was the Word’?), the piece falls into four linked sections:

I ‘This is the truth sent from above’ (baritone solo with wordless choral accompaniment)
II ‘Come all you worthy gentlemen’ (chorus and orchestra)
III ‘On Christmas night’ (solo baritone)
IV The last verses of parts II and III combined, words and music: final apotheosis with prominent chimes and repeated references to ‘A Virgin most Pure’. (Earlier in the work there is a fleeting reference to ‘The First Nowell’ but quite sharp ears are needed to spot it.) Then ‘the wassailers’ voices vanish into the distance, across the snow-covered fields and away into the night’. (Michael Kennedy).

from notes by Christopher Palmer © 1990

Other albums featuring this work
'Vaughan Williams: Choral Works' (CDS44321/4)
Vaughan Williams: Choral Works
MP3 £20.00FLAC £20.00ALAC £20.00Buy by post £22.00 CDS44321/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, Flos Campi, Mystical Songs' (CDA30025)
Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, Flos Campi, Mystical Songs
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £8.50 CDA30025  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
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