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🎂Happy Birthday, Ralph Vaughan Williams

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(@dinah)
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Ralph Vaughan Williams
12 October 1872, Gloucestershire, England

(portrait by William Rothenstein, 1919)

 

"He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,
'Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings."

_ from The Lark Ascending, George Meredith, 1881

 

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/22412314


   
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(@dinah)
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Since it's premiere in 1920, The Lark Ascending has been hailed as a unique and innovative, groundbreaking even, composition.

And what a wonderful piece it is. It's so uniquely Vaughan Williams, so distinctively "English", so beautifully serene and mystical, yet equally rapturous.

The first time I listened to it I thought I heard exotic, almost far-eastern echoes layered within the quintessential pastoral melodies of the composition, and I later learned that he indeed did use pentatonic scales along the traditional western classical ones.

I have many other favourite works of his, but The Lark Ascending would forever take place of pride amongst these!

May I recommend:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/34619719

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/25722732

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/15249162

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/12254323

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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A birthday I'm delighted to celebrate. I love much of his work, but for some reason the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw your post, @dinah, was the fragment of his Sixth Symphony that was used as the theme song for the 1970s British series, A Family at War. My family watched this show religiously when I was a teenager, and I always anticipated that captivating theme. 


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @capriccio

the fragment of his Sixth Symphony that was used as the theme song for the 1970s British series, A Family at War.

This one sounds so English, so Vaughan Williams, indeed.

And I might look up that series @capriccio. Looks interesting!


   
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(@dinah)
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You know @capriccio, regarding his symphonies, I've never went through them before, even though I liked almost all of his music that I listened to!! 🤔 The only one I listened to was the 5th, in the RSNO live concert I posted in the live performances sub-forum.

I'd have to rectify that soon!

 


   
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 Jen
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To my ears, RVW’s sixth symphony is the most striking… and unsettling.  

The early movements are frantic, almost violently discordant, but it’s the last movement that makes me shudder.  It is marked “pp”throughout, with the instruction to play without expression.  The result is utterly bleak and completely haunting.

It was written at the end of World War 2, and is often assumed to be a commentary on that, although RVW is reported to have denied that.

I’ll choose a recording later to post, when I have a moment.

And also a preferred recording of something much lighter - English Folksongs 😊


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jen

The result is utterly bleak and completely haunting.

 

Now, I definitely have listen to it. 😉


   
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 Jen
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Posted by: @dinah

Now, I definitely have listen to it. 😉

😂

RVW Symphony 6: the recording I’ve been long familiar with is Bernard Haitink with the London Phil.   But I’m listening now to Antonio Pappano with the LSO, recorded last year, and it’s sending shivers down my spine:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/40293288

As a complete contrast, I’m very fond of Five English Folk Songs, especially The Lover’s Ghost:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/12711669

And finally, I can’t leave this day without listening to the glorious Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, perhaps my favourite work by RVW. 

Many years ago I sang in a chamber choir and we were picking our way through Archbishop Parker’s Psalter one evening.  I’ll always remember the moment when the choir, as one, suddenly realised what we were singing.  That Theme.  

Here’s a favourite recording of the Fantasia, with Mark Elder and the Hallé:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/33317558

Happy Birthday Ralph Vaughan Williams 🥂


   
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 Hugh
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My favourite VW is the song cycle with piano and string quartet accompaniment "On Wenlock Edge". 

It's included in this album. ‎Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge . Warlock: The Curlew by Ian Partridge on Apple Music


   
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(@jchokey)
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I love RVW!   I never knew "The Lark Ascending" was based on a poem, though!

And yes, his symphonies are excellent.  I feel like they should be better known.

My favorite piece of his though may be "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis".  

This post was modified 12 months ago by jchokey

   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jchokey

And yes, his symphonies are excellent.  I feel like they should be better known.

🙋‍♀️ Definitely on my to do list.

Posted by: @jchokey

"Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis".  

You all keep mentioning this one, I think I'll start listening to it right away!


   
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(@dinah)
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Thanks everyone for suggesting the Thomas Tallis Fantasia. It's really beautiful.

All of this music by Vaughan Williams has a distinct flavor, I'll call it The Sound of Vaughan Williams?! A wonderful, lyrical, transcendental sound, and certainly very, very English.

 

I'll leave you now with the voice of the man himself:

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @jchokey

My favorite piece of his though may be "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis". 

Mine, too. That, and his G Minor Mass. 

I'm a fan of Tallis as well. Spem in Alium is such a tidal wave. 


   
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 Hugh
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Another great favourite of mine (if it's not on my desert island list I'll have to add it!) is Silent Noon. A very evocative depiction of a perfect English summer day. Wonderful to have a song about cow parsley. 😀 

https://music.apple.com/gb/album/silent-noon/941890718?i=941890872&ls

It's often on albums with other VW songs such as Linden Lea and Sea Fever.


   
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(@capriccio)
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@hugh That’s exquisite. I hadn’t heard Silent Noon before.

I’ve always loved Linden Lea; one of my all-time favourite melodies.


   
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