Sydney Symphony Orchestra
‘There are many reasons Arcadia Lost is wonderful, but the major factor is Mark Wigglesworth’s brilliant conducting. I first heard him a few seasons ago in performances of The Marriage of Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. From the first measures of the overture I realized that this was something out of the ordinary. Something I could call great. What is that? Nobody can say. Beyond the mathematics of precision, tight ensemble within the various orchestral choirs separately and together, the pulse, the phrasing, lies a mystery. The impression remains in this Vaughan Williams and Britten recital. The style is very profound, and the musical heart of the matter brilliantly illumined from beginning to end. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has had Beecham and Klemperer on its podium, but I hope they know that Mark Wigglesworth is in every way their peer of these two patriarchs…Wigglesworth is an authentic voice in an inauthentic time, and he makes Sydney one of the prominent music centers of the world.’
Raymond Beegle, Fanfare IV (US) November/December 2012
‘This is an exquisitely musical and splendidly atmospheric disc…I have had occasion to praise Mark Wigglesworth previously in these pages, if only for his outstanding recording of the Mahler 10th Symphony, which I believe was only issued as a BBC Music Magazine disc, but which is my all-time favorite performance of that work. This is yet further proof that he is an exceptionally special talent.
Indeed, I would place these performances of The Lark Ascending and Flos Campi as far and away the most exquisite, deeply felt, I would even say spiritual performances of these works I’ve ever heard. Wigglesworth draws such extraordinary playing out of the Sydney Symphony that one is left speechless in trying to describe its effect.’
Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare III (US) November/December 2012
‘Arcadia Lost is the title of this collection of live recordings, in which Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem sits slightly oddly alongside three of Vaughan Williams’ versions of the pastoral. Yet the excellence of all the performances is more than enough to set aside any questions about whether they belong together. Mark Wigglesworth’s account of the Britten is a slow burner; he resists the temptation to turn it into a virtuoso showpiece for the fine Sydney orchestra from the start, but steadily ratchets up the intensity through the first movement and scherzo, leaving the finale to resolve its tensions. In The Lark Ascending, too, there’s something purposeful rather than just decorative about the scene-painting.’
Andrew Clements, The Guardian; February 24th 2012
‘Here is a beautiful little gem of a release from the remarkable Australian Melba label. Devoted to two of the biggest names in English music, Arcadia Lost features three scores by Vaughan Williams (The Lark Ascending, Flos Campi and On Wenlock Edge) and the Sinfonia da Requiem by Benjamin Britten…Under the inspired, profound and rigorous direction of English conductor Mark Wigglesworth the works presented in this recording recapture a level of emotion too often masked by a disconcertingly academic approach.’
Jean-Jacques Millo, Opus Haute Définition; February 6th 2012
‘Vaughan Williams is the more popular name on this unexpectedly brilliant Australian compilation, and one hopes that those tempted by an Antipodean take on The Lark Ascending will stick around for Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. Wigglesworth’s live performance is magnificently imposing, reminding you of what an uncomfortable listen this piece can be…Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending…is excellent – Michael Dauth’s pure-toned violin solo is gorgeous, with Wigglesworth’s slimmed down orchestral support a model of discretion.’
Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk; March 3rd 2012
‘Here’s yet another classy SACD offering from the Australian Melba label. The three items featuring the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth’s shapely lead emanate from live concerts held within the Sydney Opera House on the first three days in October 2009. Not even a few isolated coughs and platform noises can tarnish one of the most probing, routine-free readings of The Lark Ascending to have come my way over recent years. A former leader of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Michael Dauth performs with heartwarming conviction and impressive security, and he generates a memorable rapport with Wigglesworth and company. The utterly magical hush distilled from 12’27” is alone worth the price of admission.
There’s plenty of perception, spontaneity and ardor, too, in Flos Campi, which finds the orchestra’s principal viola Roger Benedict in hugely eloquent, technically flawless form (his burnished tone a joy to encounter) and features a beautifully prepared choral contribution from Cantillation. Wigglesworth paces proceedings to a finessed nicety, drawing out every ounce of rapt languor and tender intimacy from RVW’s yearningly sensuous paean to earthly love…What a bewitching, breathtakingly original masterwork it is!
Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem is the interloper in this all-Vaughan Williams programme – albeit a most welcome one, given the unforced eloquence and commitment to its cause displayed by these accomplished artists. I like the purposeful tread of the ominous opening ‘Lacrymosa’, the piercing clash of major and minor at its apex hitting home with formidable cumulative impact, and if the comparatively distant balance slightly tames the savage bite of the hair-raising central scherzo (‘Dies Irae’), there’s no want of soothing compassion in the deeply moving finale (‘Requiem Aeternam’). Overall, Wigglesworth comfortably holds his own against some stiff competition from the likes of Previn, Rattle (both EMI) and Slatkin (RCA).’
Andrew Achenbach, The Classical Review; February 1st 2012