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Thread: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony no.0

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    Post Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony no.0

    I recently found on YouTube(!) a recording of RVW's Norfolk Rhapsody No2, one of the two he withdrew from publication in 1906, a piece long believed lost. No.3 remains undiscovered, however. No.2 was only rediscovered in 2002 and it reignited all my speculative fascination about his Symphony No.0 ( a la Bruckner).
    It is known that RVW planned a symphony before the official No.1 (A Sea Symphony). We even have the second movement which RVW published separately as a "Symphony Sketch" (In the Fen Country). What could the rest of the symphony have been like? NR 2 seems like a pretty good beginning for the first movement. I recently tried a wild experiment and played the English Folk Song Suite (1923) immediately after In the Fen Country. Despite the chronologicle differenceIt is a brilliant match/ contrast. 3rd movement must be a scherzo and this is at minimum ABA so here goes.... For the final movement we are wonderland but what about The Lark Ascending? I just kind of feel RVW would have gone for a slow movement, as he does in so many of his later symphonies. This is cheating of course, because LA is such a famous and wonderful piece of music, but just try it: Norfolk Rhapsody No2 (if you can find the rare recording), In the Fen Country, English Folk Song Suite, Lark Ascending. 0 is said to be an infinite number. It gave me infinite pleasure. This is the wonder of recorded music. You can recreate the impossible.

    Why did RVW never complete this embryonic work? He was never in his career afraid to abandon work with which he was not satisfied, especially in his early years and was notoriously self-critical, though not quite as bad here as Paul Dukas for example. He was also a notorious reviser. It is difficult to make many categorical statements because of this. The version we have of In the Fen Country, for eaxample postdates the "lessons" he took in orchestration from Ravel in 1908 and may therefore sound more "advanced" than RVW originally intended it. It is notable also in this context that RVW's first published piece On Linden Lea (1902) is a work of extreme simplicity. RVW was nevertheless also a supreme judge of public opinion and perhaps decided the latter was not yet ready for such radical departures from traditional symphonic structure, although this bothered him less in later years. We are still free to speculate, however.

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