Paul L Althouse
American Record Guide
, January 2010
This is an interesting program that spans most of the composer’s career. The justly famous Tallis Fantasia is early, dating from 1910 (though with later revisions). The oboe concerto and Household Music, which are three preludes on Welsh hymn tunes, are both from the years of WW II; while the Blake songs, for tenor and oboe, came in 1957, shortly before he died.
Most of the program is dedicated to the oboe, first in the concerto, and then in the Blake songs, where the oboe is the sole accompaniment. Household Music was written originally for string quartet, but Vaughan Williams authorized substitutions, so we have oboe and strings. (The notes quote VW as arguing for music written for “combinations of all manner of instruments that might be played by people whiling away the waiting-hours of war”.) Lencses is a well-established oboist—he’s now in his mid-60s—with very fine technique; but his sound is often too reedy and harsh for me. There are lovely moments and occasions of beautiful phrasing to go along with his impressive technique…The German tenor Andreas Weller has a fine timbre for Vaughan Williams…The Tallis Fantasia is very well played, but the string ensemble sounds small to medium in size, and the tempo is quite fast. If you like the piece with intensity, rather than as a bath of sonics, you’ll enjoy this.