Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 4 (Mitropoulos)

"Hold your Hat!" - These were the words inscribed inside the album cover for the first copy I owned of Vaughan Williams conducting his Symphony in F Minor by the 78 set's original owner. An apt description of the work's anger and violence, and also of the composer's 1937 performance, which has never been equaled. The only one I've ever heard that even comes close is the one presented here. This was, I believe, the only Vaughan Williams symphony in Mitropoulos' repertoire, and he had conducted the New York Philharmonic in at least sixteen performances of it, since 1945, at the time this recording was made:

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 4 in F minor
New York Philharmonic conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded January 9, 1956
Columbia Masterworks ML-5158, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 81.06 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 52.73 MB)

Vaughan Williams liked to say that the dissonant opening motto of the Fourth Symphony was "cribbed" from the opening of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth. If that is so, the overall form of the symphony was surely cribbed from that of Beethoven's Fifth, with its motto recurring at strategic points, the similar dimensions of its movements, and even its Scherzo being linked to its Finale by a similar crescendo.


  1. Fine post Bryan, thanks for the files! DM did perform the VW London symphony w/the NBC symphony in 1945. Transcript discs of the performance survive and have been posted on Symphonyshare in the past.

  2. Bryan, many thanks - a great performance.


  3. I believe there is also extant a recording of DM at the helm of the two-piano version of the concerto. I'll have to check at home...

    RVW of course said a couple of things related to the fourth: most famously "I don't know if I like it, but it's what I meant" said to the BBC SO, probably during the recording sessions.

    I also believe he said "if that's modern music you can keep it!" again about the 4th.

  4. GREAT......................THANK YOU