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Thread: Ralph Vaughan-Williams

  1. #121
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    Well, as I said, the series (Classical Destinations) is not merely factual, but visual. It's really a feast for the senses. Even some people I know, who I lent the DVD's to, really enjoyed them, even though they aren't classical fans.

  2. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Well, as I said, the series (Classical Destinations) is not merely factual, but visual. It's really a feast for the senses. Even some people I know, who I lent the DVD's to, really enjoyed them, even though they aren't classical fans.
    It sounds like a pretty cool DVD series. I'll have to see if my library has it (yes that's right you heard me --- THE LIBRARY). Since it was a PBS series, I'm sure they'll have it.

  3. #123
    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I did enjoy "O Thou Transcendent" probably because, even though he is one of my favorites, I knew next to nothing about RVW other than his witnessing some horrors during WWI.

    I agree it is disjointed, but it did inform me a little about his personality through the interviews of those who remembered him. I was especially astonished at the parts about his 2nd wife who was much younger (and rather attractive) and the stories of ladies always hanging around him at gatherings. I would not have suspected him of this kind of charisma for some reason.

    Still I feel I don't know much more about the man after viewing it.

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    I have just heard for the first time The Sea Symphony, and thought it sounded great. I've not heard anything quite like it before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    I did enjoy "O Thou Transcendent" probably because, even though he is one of my favorites, I knew next to nothing about RVW other than his witnessing some horrors during WWI.

    I agree it is disjointed, but it did inform me a little about his personality through the interviews of those who remembered him. I was especially astonished at the parts about his 2nd wife who was much younger (and rather attractive) and the stories of ladies always hanging around him at gatherings. I would not have suspected him of this kind of charisma for some reason.

    Still I feel I don't know much more about the man after viewing it.
    I still know very little about him and this film was 2 hrs. and 40 minutes!!!!

    Anyway, the reason films like this don't work are because composers are enigmatic people. They keep to themselves a lot and RVW was definitely this way. He was also self-contradictory, especially when talking with conductors or other people about his music. He was an admirable man though. A very giving person.

  6. #126
    Senior Member JAKE WYB's Avatar
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    I found it hard to watch simply because it looked amatuerish and unrefined in its camera work - and the huge amounts of old people though very interesting in their direct links didnt seem to be enlightening. A much more enlightening production was Stephen Johnsons radio documentary - cant remeber what it was called - sometimes radio is better for that sort of thing.

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    Tallis Fantasia is good, Lark Ascending nice. But why do some say the symphonies are among the greatest of the last century? There are some nice textures at times but is that really enough? Overhype again maybe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starry View Post
    Tallis Fantasia is good, Lark Ascending nice. But why do some say the symphonies are among the greatest of the last century? There are some nice textures at times but is that really enough? Overhype again maybe.
    I agree. I think that most of his symphonies are are a mish-mash of styles, and sometimes lack real coherence. Look at the London Symphony, parts of it remind me of Puccini, Ravel, the final movement a march similar to Brahms. & the Symphony No. 6 has elements of Mahler (the scherzo), uncomfortably sitting next to Busoni (the slow final movement). For me, the lack of unity is a big drawback in these works.

    IMO, the most satisfying work in his whole output is the Symphony No. 4. I've probably said it before, but I like it's directness (it's monothematic), he doesn't beat around the bush here. Parts of the orchestration remind me of Bartok, but it's still a convincing work. Probably too intense for some people, but I'd rather have this than his nice pictures of rural England which really just don't grab me at all...

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    Of course, Andre, your prejudice for Modernism over late Romanticism is obvious. The fact that you personally don't like Vaughan-Williams' (or anyone else's) more pastoral works is in no way a valid criticism of the same. Personally, I quite like Vaughan-William's symphonies... the more pastoral... and the more brash. They are two different sides to the composer's vision. No, they are not on the level of Brahms or Mahler's or Bruckner's symphonies... but few composers rise to that level. I'm personally more attracted to Delius at present. I've recently listened to Vaughan-William's Sea Symphony and Delius Sea Drift, both of which are symphonic/choral/vocal works constructed around the theme of the sea and the poetry of Whitman. I personally found Delius work to be much stronger. But I'm not certain that personal preference amounts to a statement of fact.

  10. #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    Of course, Andre, your prejudice for Modernism over late Romanticism is obvious. The fact that you personally don't like Vaughan-Williams' (or anyone else's) more pastoral works is in no way a valid criticism of the same. .
    Well, to be fair, he was stating his opinion and gave his reason for it - which he is quite entilted to do.

    Myself, I have just recently become familiar with with Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, which to my ears is a beautiful work yet not sugary in any way. I wonder what it must be like to be able to write music like that...

  11. #131
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    Well, to be fair, he was stating his opinion and gave his reason for it - which he is quite entilted to do

    I'm not questioning his right to a personal opinion. We all have them. I'm simply noting that if it is well-known that I am less than sympathetic to the classical era, for example, any statements I might make about Haydn or Mozart being overrated should probably be taken with a grain of salt. My own personal tastes are quite broad, ranging from medieval to contemporary work... but considering my opinion upon atonal music I'm probably not going to offer a fully objective opinion of Schoenberg.

  12. #132
    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    Do people really say Vaughan-Williams' symphonies are the greatest of the last century? I don't recall hearing that very often. They are certainly enjoyable for me, but I am not sure I would rank them with Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, or Nielsen. My favorite of Vaughan-Williams' is the 7th, Sinfonia Antartica, and it is a symphony in name only in my opinion. For me it is really a soundtrack suite.

  13. #133
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    Do people really say Vaughan-Williams' symphonies are the greatest of the last century? I don't recall hearing that very often. They are certainly enjoyable for me, but I am not sure I would rank them with Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, or Nielsen. My favorite of Vaughan-Williams' is the 7th, Sinfonia Antartica, and it is a symphony in name only in my opinion. For me it is really a soundtrack suite.
    The books I've read say that RVW produced the best symphonies composed by a British composer in the C20th. My knowledge of this area is not great, but as I've said before, I think that Bax's cycle is much finer for it's overall cohesion. There's also more thematic development in the symphonies by him that I've heard. Rubbra is also another C20th British symphonist who is much overlooked, but I haven't heard any of his symphonies to make a comparison with RVW. I think that Walton would have been one of the best British symphonists, but unfortunately, he only produced two symphonies. But in terms of quality they are said to be very fine indeed (I've only heard the first). I think it's ridiculous how, looking at this rich and diverse repertoire, you hardly get any other British symphonies on the airwaves apart from RVW (at least here in Sydney, anyway). I've heard RVW's 5th symphony enough times, and I'm sick of it. How about some more varied programming of the other composers?

    I agree with you that the other composers you mentioned composed much better symphonies than RVW. & yes, Sinfonia Antartica does render the frozen wastes of that continent perfectly, pity there is not much thematic development in it. As I said, the only RVW symphony that I think is a masterpiece is the 4th. That's my opinion, take it or leave it, people...

  14. #134
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    I agree that overplay by the radio stations can turn us against ever wanting to hear a particular piece again. Then again... I rarely ever listen to the radio and never watch TV so the media has little or no impact upon me. Ralph Vaughan Williams may have risen to the status of the most popular modern British composer... perhaps not unlike Aaron Copland in the US... but I personally don't find him to be a stand-alone figure. As I stated earlier, I prefer Delius, but I also like Bax (although I am more familiar with his tone poems than any symphonies), Walton, Cyril Scott, Elgar, and Bantock. Almost certainly I'd go with Britten as the greatest modern British composer. Still I quite like RVW's symphonies... including the Sea Symphony, the London Symphony, the more pastoral symphonies 3 and 5, but also the more strident 4, etc... I think that being prejudiced against the more "pastoral" or less strident approaches to music is no different than the prejudice against the more experimental and challenging. I find that I can gain pleasure from Vaughan-William's 3rd and 5th or Rachmaninoff's works or Chopin's nocturnes just as well as I might gain the same from Bartok's string quartets or Shostakovitch's outrageous opera, The Nose. It all depends upon the mood I am in.

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    I also like to think I have varied taste. I agree that Delius is probably better than Vaughan Williams, and I think Bax's 3rd and in particular Elgar's 1st (one of my favourite symphonies) are better than any of Vaughan William's symphonies. Other less well known one's like Hugh Wood's symphony from 1982 I may like more too. But rather than just looking nationalistically at it (which is too limited a view imo) I'm not sure that Vaughan William's place among 20th century symphonists or composers in general even should be among the first tier. I'm not sayng he is a bad composer, as I have said I think the Tallis Fantasia is a great piece. There are probably quite a few other composers in that century who produced a handful of exceptional pieces but they are very largely unknown.

    Incidentally those who like the Tallis Fantasia may wish to listen to renaissance music as well as that was the inspiration for his piece.

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