Ralph Vaughan Williams, (born
October 12, 1872, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England—died
August 26, 1958, London, England), English composer in the
first half of the 20th century, founder of the nationalist
movement in English music.
Vaughan Williams studied at
Trinity College, Cambridge, and in London at the Royal
College of Music under two major figures of the late
19th-century renaissance of English music, Sir Charles
Stanford and Sir Hubert Parry. In 1897–98 he studied in
Berlin under the noted composer Max Bruch and in 1909 in
Paris under Maurice Ravel. About 1903 he began to collect
folk songs, and in 1904–06 he was musical editor of The
English Hymnal, for which he wrote his celebrated “Sine
Nomine” (“For All the Saints”). After artillery service in
World War I, he became professor of composition at the Royal
College of Music.
His studies of English folk
song and his interest in English music of the Tudor period
fertilized his talent, enabling him to incorporate modal
elements (i.e., based on folk song and medieval scales) and
rhythmic freedom into a musical style at once highly
personal and deeply English.
compositions include orchestral, stage, chamber, and vocal
works. His three Norfolk Rhapsodies (numbers 2 and 3 later
withdrawn), notably the first in E minor (first performed,
1906), were the first works to show his assimilation of folk
song contours into a distinctive melodic and harmonic style.
His nine symphonies cover a vast expressive range.
Especially popular are the second, A London Symphony (1914;
rewritten 1915; rev. 1918, 1920, 1934), and the seventh,
Sinfonia Antartica (1953), an adaptation of his music for
the film Scott of the Antarctic (1949). Other orchestral
works include the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
(1910); concerti for piano (later arranged for two pianos
and orchestra), oboe, and tuba; and the Romance for
harmonica and orchestra (1952).
Of his stage works, The
Pilgrim’s Progress (1951) and Job (1931), a masque for
dancing, reflect his serious, mystical side. Hugh the Drover
(1924), a ballad opera, stems from his folk song interest.
Riders to the Sea (1937) is a poignant setting of John
Millington Synge’s play.
He wrote many songs of
great beauty, including On Wenlock Edge (1909), set to poems
of A.E. Housman and consisting of a cycle for tenor, string
quartet, and piano (later arranged for tenor and orchestra)
and Five Mystical Songs (1911), set to poems of George
Herbert. Particularly notable among his choral works are the
Mass in G Minor, the cantatas Toward the Unknown Region
(1907) and Dona Nobis Pacem (1936; Grant Us Peace), and the
oratorio Sancta Civitas (1926; The Holy City). He also wrote
many part-songs, as well as hymn and folk song settings.
Vaughan Williams broke the
ties with continental Europe that for two centuries through
George Frideric Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, and lesser German
composers had made Britain virtually a musical province of
Germany. Although his predecessors in the English musical
renascence, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Hubert Parry, and Sir
Charles Stanford, remained within the Continental tradition,
Vaughan Williams, like such nationalist composers as the
Russian Modest Mussorgsky, the Czech Bedřich Smetana, and
the Spanish Manuel de Falla, turned to folk song as a
wellspring of native musical style.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: "A London Symphony"
Vaughan Williams's great paean to the city of London, written
shortly before the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18.
1st movment: Lento - Allegro risoluto 00:00
2nd movement: Lento: 14:00
3rd movement: Scherzo 24:43
4th movement Andante con moto - Maestoso all marcia 32:28
R. Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
1st movement: Begins at 00:00
2nd movement: Begins at 20:55
3rd movement: Begins at 33:00
4th movement: Begins at 40:57
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 3, 'Pastoral'
Roger Norrington conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No 4 in F minor - Sargent
Symphony No 4 in F minor
07:43 Andante moderato
17:13 Scherzo. Allegro molto
22:30 Finale con epilogo fugato. Allegro molto
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Malcolm Sargent, conductor
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5 - Chicago Symphony / Slatkin
Few great American orchestras have recorded the Vaughan Williams's
symphonies but luckily there are a number of 'live' performances
taken off the radio. Here is a 1988 broadcast of No. 5 by the
wonderful Chicago Symphony under Leonard Slatkin. His complete set
of Vaughan Williams's symphonies was recorded in England, like all
the other RVW cycles at the time, rather than in America. Had he
recorded it in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, etc., it
would have been rather more interesting!
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6 in E minor - BBC Proms 2012 (Andrew
First heard in 1948, the symphony's violence and dissonance came as
a huge shock after the serenity of Symphony No 5.
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - Andrew Manze conductors at the
Royal Albert Hall - London - BBC PROMS 2012.
Presenter: Petroc Trelawny
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 8
1. Fantasia 0:00
2. Scherzo 11:00
3. Cavatina 14:48
4. Toccata 24:01
RVW's Eighth Symphony in D minor was written between 1953 and 1955,
when the composer was in his early eighties. It is dedicated to Sir
John Barbirolli, who gave the first performance. The symphony is the
shortest of all the nine symphonies and, perhaps, the most varied in
mood. It is remarkably inventive, especially in the composer's
experiments in sonority. Not only does he use a much-expanded
percussion section, but the two central movements use only the wind
section and string section respectively.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 9 in E minor
RVW's last symphonic utterance, composed in 1956-7 and first
performed a few weeks before his death at the age of 85. At one
time, VW intended it to be a symphony about Salisbury and the
surrounding countryside and there were also to be references to
Thomas Hardy's tragic novel 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. This idea
was abandoned but many traces of the original idea survive in the
finished work. My video makes reference to the city of Salisbury and
the Wessex countryside, and there are also allusions to 'Tess'.
Those who know the novel may spot Tess herself, Stonehenge, the
scene of the novel's climax, a prison-like building and a gruesome
symbol of poor Tess's tragic fate. This EMI recording is by Vernon
Handley with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Piano Concerto in C major
RVW began his Piano Concerto in 1926 but did not complete it until
1931. It is dedicated to Harriet Cohen (pictured in this video), who
gave the first performance in February 1933, with Adrian Boult
conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Queen's Hall in London.
The concerto is in three movements which play without a break. In
this performance on the NAXOS label, Ashley Wass is the soloist,
with James Judd conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Vaughan Williams, Suite for Viola and Orchestra.
The Suite for Viola and Orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams is a
work in eight movements for solo viola and orchestra completed in
1934. The Suite is dedicated to violist Lionel Tertis, who premiered
the work on November 12, 1934 at the Queen's Hall in London under
the baton of Malcolm Sargent.
Anne Burns(viola)/Anchorage Symphony Orchestra/Randall Fleischer.
Vaughan Williams: Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra (Thomson,
London Symphony Orchestra)
Ralph Vaughan Williams's Second Norfolk Rhapsody in the world
premier recording by the late Richard Hickox with the LSO. This is
the second of VW's three Norfolk Rhapsodies; sadly the third of the
set is lost. VW originally envisaged that the three pieces could be
played together to form a Norfolk Symphony but seems to have
abandoned this idea. Oddly, though he withdrew Number 2 and seems to
have destroyed Number 3, the first Norfolk Rhapsody is still usually
known as 'Number 1'. The folk-songs used in this piece were
collected in the county of Norfolk, many from the fisher-folk of
King's Lynn and the inmates of the town's Workhouse.
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Oboe Concerto in A minor
This concerto was written in 1944, for the oboist Leon Goossens and
was first performed in Liverpool that year, the scheduled London
premier having been cancelled due to German bombing. This
performance is by Robin Canter, with the London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by James Judd. Referring to the closing bars of the third
movement, the Vaughan Williams scholar, Dr Michael Kennedy, said of
this work: "Very little of VW's music is nostalgic, but here he
seems to be yearning for some lost and precious thing.
Characteristically, he has put what are some of his most intimate
longings into a work which has generally been overlooked. For a few
bars the veil is torn aside." Most listeners will be able to
identify the bars Dr Kennedy is referring to.
The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams
'The Lark Ascending', inspired by a poem of the same
name by George Meredith, was begun shortly before
the outbreak of the First World War but not
completed until Vaughan Williams returned from
active service in France. This performance is by
Nicola Benedetti with the London Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton.
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
for Double Stringed Orchestra
David Nolan, Leader
London Philharmonic Orchestra