Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ralph Vaughan Williams

I've been waxing lyrical for awhile about music and classical music, latin hymnals and the like. But I neglected to mention the heavenly prose in music form of Ralph Vaughan Williams. His specialities were drawing upon and reinventing masterpieces of the Elizabethan era and writing the English landscape into classical music.

If any of you readers have been to England, feel akin to the English, carry English heritage in your family, likely Vaughan Williams work will strike a chord with you.

My favourite pieces I've yet heard are The Lark Ascending, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and the Sinfonia Antartica.

The Lark Ascending (1908) is actually by the lines from a poem by George Meredith and typifies the English landscape. You can literally hear the lark ascending and descending gracefully through the sky in this beautiful piece. The lines are as follows:
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 instills,
And ever winging up and up
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
To life us with him as he goes
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) draws on the work of Thomas Tallis, whom some of you may remember as a character in the very popular TV series the Tudors. S.W. Bennett states this theme is the masterpiece in which Vaughan Williams' originality of style and form first attained complete realization, and it has remained ever frensh and touching. ... A marvel of instrumentation, it is also a very subtle one, employing only strings, with interplay not only between the two full string choirs but also between the solo strings and the main body in each choir.
This is perhaps why this piece really catches me, because I have a soft spot for strings.

Lastly the Sinfonia Antartica was composed, in 1949, for the Ealing Studio's film "Scott of the Antarctic", this symphony is heroic in scale, imaginative in use of tone-colour and strong in quality of thematic invention. Each movement has a literary superscription, for the listern to read siliently, not to be spoekn aloud as part of the work.

For a euphoric listening experience, give these three pieces a try.

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