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Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughn Williams was born on October 12th, 1872. Known for his 9 symphonies, 5 operas, and interpretations of traditional English folk music, he is considered one of Britain’s most memorable composers.

Vaughan Williams grew up fatherless, and was raised by his mother unto a well off upper middle class. As a child he casually studied piano initially, but migrated to the violin "which was [his] musical salvation." His family heritage yields connections to evolutionist, Charles Darwin as well as the prominent industrialist, Josiah Wedgewood.

During the time ...read more

Ralph Vaughn Williams was born on October 12th, 1872. Known for his 9 symphonies, 5 operas, and interpretations of traditional English folk music, he is considered one of Britain’s most memorable composers.

Vaughan Williams grew up fatherless, and was raised by his mother unto a well off upper middle class. As a child he casually studied piano initially, but migrated to the violin "which was [his] musical salvation." His family heritage yields connections to evolutionist, Charles Darwin as well as the prominent industrialist, Josiah Wedgewood.

During the time of his study as a young man at the renowned Royal College of Music, he met with prominent future conductor and arranger Leopold Stokowski as well as Gustav Holst, for whom he shared a close friendship. Despite this, his compositional career developed gradually, until he became acquainted with the diminishing traditions of native folk songs. For some time (beginning in 1904) Vaughan Williams traversed the English country-side aurally transcribing the authorless tunes in an attempt to preserve their historic significance. These transcriptions would press their own significance upon his music which was to follow; in 1909 his first major success was his “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”.

In the same year, the then well grounded conductor himself conducted his first symphony entitled “A Sea Symphony”. Further success would be driven in during 1914 for his premiere of his second symphony (“A London Symphony”, and again for his third (“A Pastoral Symphony”) in 1922. His first three symphonic works epitomize the style he has been remembered for: incorporating elements of English folk music, coupled with sublime sting motifs.

His fourth symphony (1935), dedicated to Irish composer Arnold Bax, marked a shift in Vaughn Williams’ method; during its premiere many audience members were dismayed at the work’s deviation from the approaches they’d become comfortable with. Conversely the work was well received by his contemporaries; composer William Walton was quoted remaking on his admiration for the work stating “[it’s] the greatest symphony since Beethoven.” The work conveys tense emotional force, utilising dissonance, and harsher forms on instrumentation, similar in style to Bax himself.

Between his major symphonies, which highlight pinnacle moments in the composer’s stylistic evolution, Vaughn Williams also composed many other shorter categorical chamber pieces for as well as operas. His Sir John in Love opera was very well received at the time – a subsequent arrangement of the traditional tune Greensleeves by Ralph Greaves which was a staple piece during the opera’s third act also proved to be highly popular.

During his post-war era, the aging composer managed to deliver three symphonies, thus completing his 9. He is one of the composers presented as substantiation for the Curse of the Ninth: a superstitious outcome proposed by Arnold Schoenberg of the inability for a composer to reach beyond nine symphonies, in respect to Gustav Mahler at the time. Interestingly, many other composers who have undertaken a 9th symphony, tend to produce far weightier and strident music, perhaps in some attempt to pay homage to Beethoven’s illustrious effort – Vaughn Williams’ 9th (1956-57) is no exception to this. His last symphony would also be his final prominent piece of music. He died a year or so later after its premiere during August 1958. Many of his later works survive in early recordings by Decca, many of which are still in print to this day.

Vaughan Williams is not only remembered for his compositional output, but also his time as a lecturer and mentor for up-and-coming composers, for whom he encouraged to create purely original music, however simplistic it may be. « hide

Similar Bands: Arnold Bax, William Walton, Gustav Holst, Edward Elgar, George Butterworth

LPs
Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
1939

4
1 Votes
Fantasia on "Greensleeves"
1934

4.1
13 Votes
A Pastoral Symphony [No. 3]
1922

3.5
1 Votes
A London Symphony [No. 2]
1913

4.3
9 Votes
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
1910

4.2
9 Votes
Compilations
Symphony No.5; Flos campi; Oboe Concerto
2002

4.5
1 Votes

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05.09.11  Composers: Best Of Old And New09.09.09  Two Year Anniversary

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