The Idyll, The Banks of Green Willow, by George Butterworth, was composed in 1913, the same year Vaughan Williams completed 'A London Symphony'. It is a sensuous work, which incorporates two folk songs Butterworth had collected in 1907.
It was George Butterworth who first suggested to Vaughan Williams that he should write an orchestral symphony and, after Butterworth's tragic death, Vaughan Williams dedicated A London Symphony to his memory. The work was finished by the end of 1913 and first performed at the Queen's Hall in London on 27 March 1914 conducted by Geoffrey Toye, and, as on this CD, was programmed after The Banks of Green Willow. Following the loss of the full score in Germany in 1914, Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Toye and E.J. Dent reconstructed it from the orchestral parts, and the first performance of the reconstruction took place on 11 February 1915 under Dan Godfrey. Vaughan Williams revised the symphony three times: in 1918, 1920 and 1933, and the well-known ‘Revised Edition' was published in the mid-1930s.
Listening to the original conception of A London Symphony is particularly exciting in that there is around twenty minutes of extra music from a time when Vaughan Williams was writing works of freshness and lyricism, including The Lark Ascending (1914).
Many of Vaughan Williams's friends regretted the cuts, Sir Arnold Bax referred to his sadness at ‘the loss of a mysterious passage of strange and fascinating cacophony with which the first version of the Scherzo closed'. Bernard Hermann felt that the deleted bars in the slow movement removed some of ‘the most original poetic moments in the entire symphony'.
After the first performance of the original version, as heard on this CD, Vaughan Williams's close friend Gustav Holst wrote to the composer saying ‘You have really done it this time!' How right he was.
‘Hickox is a persuasive Vaughan Williams interpreter and has the LSO on unbeatable form.' Sunday Times
‘As with his Chandos Fifth he's [Hickox] a wonderfully sensitive interpreter of the whole piece.' International Record Review
'This is no academic resuscitation, but a glorious finished work in its own right. The orchestral playing is jaw-dropping. Buy it immediately - and you'll be treated to a lovely little extra in The Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth.' Gramophone
Disc of the Month: ‘The original 1913 score contains some remarkable extra music, and the LSO and Hickox give it a performance that's far from academic.' BBC Music Magazine
‘Quite simply, an essential purchase for anyone remotely interested in British music.' Gramophone
‘This is a disc of immense importance to lovers of English music.' Sunday Telegraph
'Gramophone Critic's Choice of 2001 new releases' Gramophone
‘As of now, this issue is for me the symphonic recording of the year. It is glorious in all respects.' American Record Guide