Home Classical Music Which is your favorite Ralph Vaughan Williams work?

Which is your favorite Ralph Vaughan Williams work?

Which is your favorite Ralph Vaughan Williams work?


We requested 9 musicians, writers and film-makers who’ve discovered themselves concerned within the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams to inform us about their all-time favorite VW work…

Favorite Vaughan Williams works

Richard Hickox, conductor
The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a big problem for any conductor, with 42 solo roles, refrain, orchestra and many offstage results. I used to be requested to do it for Covent Backyard in 1997, as a result of it had been premiered there in 1951 – the premiere was a failure so far as the manufacturing was involved, however everybody knew it was marvellous music.

It’s not an thrilling work to rehearse for the orchestra, however as soon as the voices come and you set the work collectively, it has a rare high quality. Vaughan Williams might have been agnostic, however his works have a non secular radiance, and none extra so than this.

He took 40 years to write down it and put his absolute coronary heart into it. For me, it has the essence of VW – the non secular high quality, drama, the dissonance, the anger. He’s not the quintessential pastoral composer that folks assume he was. He was an indignant, passionate and explosive composer.

In addition to being one of the vital well-known English composers of all time, Vaughan Williams is without doubt one of the finest composers ever

Tony Palmer, director of the Vaughan Williams movie O Thou Transcendent
A Sea Symphony

A Sea Symphony *is* Vaughan Williams. It’s a self-portrait and it’s muscular, visionary, brilliantly orchestrated, vastly enigmatic, magisterial and sweeping. It pulls collectively three principal strands of English music that he aspired to: the nice Tudor composers, the folks custom – notably the tune ‘Captain’s Apprentice’ which you hear time and again within the Sea Symphony – and naturally the English Hymnal.

All these components come into life within the Sea Symphony on an enormous scale. You actually have the wind taken out of your sails. And the way anyone reacted to these first brass chords at the start – they should have been knocked flat when it was first executed in Leeds. VW is in all his magisterial glory on this work: a extremely mental, extremely disciplined, tall man flexing his muscle tissue.

Tasmin Little, violinist
The Lark Ascending

I actually should go for The Lark Ascending, not simply due to the work itself however as a result of I’ve so many recollections of instances that I’ve performed it, not least on the Final Evening of the Proms in 1995 and after I recorded it within the presence of Ursula Vaughan Williams.

It’s a bit that clearly speaks very on to lots of people – I’m wondering if there’s an analogy that folks discover within the idea of this weak little chook making its method by the skies of life by totally different conditions after which hopefully discovering its method larger and better to heaven. Initially you get this chook by itself with its stunning music however then, whereas Vaughan Williams does use light harmonies, the work is constructed and orchestrated to fairly a grand scale.

This juxtaposition of the concept of this lone chook after which the ability of the orchestra, I discover very shifting in itself. It’s fairly a non secular factor, although, and troublesome to place into phrases.

Andrew Davis, conductor
Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

I’ve obtained so many favourites. I’m very keen on Hodie because it jogs my memory of the time I met Vaughan Williams – as a treble at Watford Grammar Faculty, I went as much as Maida Vale, the place he was sat within the balcony, wanting very saggy and along with his listening to assist in.

However the true favorite is the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. That is partly as a result of, based mostly on the Tallis hymn that VW rescued from oblivion, it has a connection to the English church music that has been very a lot a part of my life. However it is usually a really mystical piece that summons up so many issues for me – the West Nation that I really like, and that melancholic Englishness that’s so fantastic.

Brian Kay, director of Leith Hill Musical Pageant
Serenade to Music

As it’s my privilege to be the conductor the Leith Hill Musical Pageant – standing the place the founder-conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams stood for over 50 years and certainly, conducting annually from his personal vintage music stand – there are numerous nice works from which I may select a favorite.

The monumental Sea Symphony, for instance – or the 5 Mystical Songs, that are such a pleasure to sing and to conduct, and even the easy lyricism of the music Linden Lea. However ultimately, it must be the Serenade to Music.

It’s no shock that Rachmaninov was deeply moved when he attended the primary efficiency: it’s certainly one of the vital romantic works ever written. The opening orchestral introduction alone is sufficient to ship me into paroxysms of enjoyment and the 2 events when the soprano (initially Isobel Baillie) soars to the highest A on the phrases ‘candy concord’ are moments of pure magic.

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Vernon Handley, conductor
Job: A Masque for Dancing

One work that has by no means been absolutely appreciated and continues to be uncared for by live performance promoters is the Partita for Double String Orchestra – in contrast to the favored Tallis Fantasia, it’s the work of a still-enquiring thoughts.

Nevertheless, for me it’s Job that follows nearly the entire of Vaughan Williams’s temperament and output. It’s brilliantly orchestrated, it has a marvellous harmonic scheme and it makes the dramatic level that, it doesn’t matter what the enemy turns into, Job goes on – Vaughan Williams himself by no means did bow all the way down to no matter occurred in life.

One factor VW hated was speaking about his work, and he wished every little thing to be felt musically and certified musically and never essentially changed into theatre. However what I really like about Job is that it’s pure theatre, however the music overrides that, so it’s by no means sentimental and by no means melodramatic.

John Bridcut, maker of BBC 4 sequence The Passions of Vaughan Williams
Three Shakespeare Songs

I’ve solely found the Three Shakespeare Songs not too long ago. Individuals reward Vaughan Williams’s fantastic orchestral music however the way in which he writes for the voice, notably in choral works, could be a bit formulaic. However these songs are extraordinary.

They’re stunning however untypical of VW – he by no means stopped turning his hand to new kinds, new concepts that, for an 80 12 months outdated, is unimaginable. As a result of they’re miniatures, the place so typically Vaughan Williams could be very large-scale, they’re additionally fairly refreshing.

He was requested by Armstrong Gibbs to write down some take a look at items for the British Federation of Music Festivals for a efficiency on the Pageant Corridor in 1951. Initially, VW despatched a slightly impolite notice again saying it will be higher to make use of a longtime take a look at piece.

Some months later Gibbs was ailing in mattress and so they had been pondering what to do when a fats envelope arrived with the manuscript for the Three Shakespeare Songs, saying ‘Expensive Armstrong, listed below are three Shakespeare settings; do what you want with them’.

Anthony Payne, composer
Symphonies Nos 3 & 6

Vaughan Williams’s symphonies inhabit completely totally different sound worlds and but you’ll be able to inform they’re all by him. I’d hate to only select one however If pressed, I’d select Nos 3 and 6.

No. 3, Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony, has come below quite a lot of abuse, individuals saying it’s cowpat music. In actual fact the irony is that it’s about war-ravaged landscapes. And it’s a deeply unique work – a four-movement symphony with virtually no quick music.

Once I was a pupil, it was stated that VW wasn’t an awesome orchestrator. That is nonsense – his orchestration is completely attuned to what he needed to say, and the Pastoral Symphony’s sound-world is kind of totally different from his different symphonies – a wierd luminosity with on the identical time darkish and inward high quality.

Symphony No. 6 is a kind of ‘war-torn’ items which all of the sudden, in the direction of the shut of the primary motion, reverts to the outdated type VW: there’s this nice, singing tune which comes out in wonderful full orchestra. Then rapidly it’s as if he realises that that is now not doable: this romantic theme reaches a catastrophic climax and the entire thing ends in limbo.

It’s mistaken to say it is a ‘warfare symphony’. It’s about one thing a lot greater, a non secular desolation, and VW confronted as much as it. He was getting on and will see dying within the center distance. He’s not a person of standard faith, so he had his personal demons to face.’

Simon Heffer, journalist and creator of Vaughan Williams: a Biography
Symphony No. 6

I first heard the first-movement theme from Vaughan William’s Symphony No. 6 after I was about ten in a music lesson at college, and I assumed it was fantastic. Once I went as much as College within the mid to late ’70s I all of the sudden obtained considering VW and I began to discover his different symphonies.

However I quickly realised that the Sixth was head and shoulders above the opposite eight by way of its originality, its high quality and its capacity to have interaction and transfer me. I’ve a fascination with the Forties and to me it’s music redolent of that interval – not simply due to the jazz syncopation, with the saxophone solo within the Scherzo and the hyperlink with Ken ‘Snake Hips’ Johnson [Britain’s first black swing bandleader who was killed in a bomb on the Café de Paris].

I felt it mirrored the warfare though VW stated it wasn’t a warfare symphony. And I assumed it was a really understated, stiff-upper lip, very unhappy piece of music. It’s a final look again at a world that has solely simply survived the Nice Struggle and isn’t going to outlive the Second: a imaginative and prescient of an England that’s disappearing endlessly.

Many individuals assume the important thing to the symphony is the 11 or 12-minute pianissimo on the finish. However I believe the bottom line is the primary motion with its unbelievable E main theme on the finish. Though it’s in a significant key, there’s nice unhappiness and a way of loss within the music.’


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