Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
238 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently acquired a collector's edition of RVW's orchestral works, & I want your advice regarding as to how I approach his music, being as unfamiliar as I am with his material. I listened to his Sea Symphony & enjoyed it, but I have a 13 disc collection and I want to know where to go next. The set is an EMI collection of various performers & conductors. Can you suggest a few of his symphonies, sonatas, concertos, and folk songs that are a worthy listen? I thank you so much for your thoughts and advice.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
31,717 Posts
I'd start with Symphonies 2,3 and 5, the oboe concerto, the Lark Ascending, the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and the song cycles On Wenlock Edge and Songs of Travel.

On the other hand, since you liked the Sea symphony and I find it one of his least compositions, it could be that someone else should give you advice. :)
 

·
Premium Member
Chicago (ex-Dublin)
Joined
·
3,030 Posts
This is a 42 page reference produced by the Ralph Vaughn Williams Society entitled - "Repertoire Guide - A Guide to his music for concert promoters, performers, and students -"


"This Guide is designed to expand the detail about selected Vaughan Williams works for potential performers and students, giving the contexts, sources of texts, instrumentations, editions, publication details and arrangements. It is intended to cover both established and the lesser-known works in the hope of encouraging discovery and further performance. The Guide is not designed to displace the current major source of information on RVW’s works, which is Michael Kennedy: A Catalogue of the Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Second Ed. Oxford University Press. 1996. ISBN 0-19-816584-6."

Here's an excerpt from the guide mentioned above in regards to Symphony No. 5 in D major -

This symphony, first performed during the darkest days of the Second World War, is perhaps the best loved of all RVW’s symphonies. When the composer conducted the first performance at a Promenade Concert in June 1943, it was regarded as a sort of benediction, giving a glimpse of a peace that perhaps lay some time in the future.

The symphony has particularly strong thematic links to the Morality, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which RVW had been working on for many years & which would not be completed & performed until 1951 & themes throughout all four movements of the symphony occur in that larger work.

The dedication of this symphony, ‘To Jean Sibelius – without permission,’ demonstrates RVW’s high regard for the Finnish master, his influence in this particular work being limited to some of the string writing & the overall clarity of the orchestration.

The 5th Symphony represents the high water mark of the composer’s writing in his more lyrical & modal styles & a good performance can result in a powerful experience for audience & performers."
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,714 Posts
I'm a sucker for a polite request. The Vaughan Williams works from my journey, heading our way in a couple of weeks time.

Level 2
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Level 3
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Lark Ascending

Level 4
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 2 "The London Symphony"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on Greensleeves
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 3 "Pastoral"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 6
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 4

Level 5
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: On Wenlock Edge
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 1 "A Sea Symphony"
Vaughan-Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 7 "Sinfonia Antartica"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 9

Level 6
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Job, A Masque for Dancing
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Mass in G Minor
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 8
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: English Folksong Suite
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Five Mystical Songs
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Songs of Travel
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: The Wasps
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Tuba Concerto

Level 7
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Five Variants of "Dives and Lazarus"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Dona Nobis Pacem
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Sir John in Love

It looks like Art Rock got it about right.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
238 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'd start with Symphonies 2,3 and 5, the oboe concerto, the Lark Ascending, the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas, and the song cycles On Wenlock Edge and Songs of Travel. On the other hand, since you liked the Sea symphony and I find it one of his least compositions, it could be that someone else should give you advice. :)
I've also listened to the Fantasia & Wenlock Edge, & I'm in agreement about their quality. I'm still trying to decide what is good & bad, & I don't have enough frame of reference & experience with CM in general to know the subtle differences in RVM's compositions in a meaningful way. It's like asking me as to whether I like red wine or white wine better, and the answer is some of both types equally for me, but not one over the other. Nor do I like all wines, and some are very disagreeable. I have some serious listening to do, no?

I am certainly not qualified to get into a deep discussion about RVM, because I am still learning to appreciate his style. Give me enough listening time & I will develop a meaningful response... but really, thanks for your input as an expert. You are probably "spot on", but if I get enough feedback from the community, I should arrive at some general conclusions about what I liked! All thoughts on the subject are appreciated. (y)
 

·
Premium Member
Chicago (ex-Dublin)
Joined
·
3,030 Posts
I'm a sucker for a polite request. The Vaughan Williams works from my journey, heading our way in a couple of weeks time.

Level 2
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Level 3
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Lark Ascending

Level 4
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 2 "The London Symphony"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on Greensleeves
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 3 "Pastoral"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 6
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 4

Level 5
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: On Wenlock Edge
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 1 "A Sea Symphony"
Vaughan-Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 7 "Sinfonia Antartica"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 9

Level 6
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Job, A Masque for Dancing
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Mass in G Minor
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 8
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: English Folksong Suite
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Five Mystical Songs
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Songs of Travel
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: The Wasps
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Tuba Concerto

Level 7
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Five Variants of "Dives and Lazarus"
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Dona Nobis Pacem
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Sir John in Love

It looks like Art Rock got it about right.
That's a superb lineup - my compliments - I was asked for advice by the OP about starting the thread and assured him that he could count on the forum's British members to provide the advice and guidance needed and that they would be kind and gracious in doing so - Thanks for proving me right!
 

·
Premium Member
Chicago (ex-Dublin)
Joined
·
3,030 Posts


Vaughan Williams: Riders to the Sea

Ingrid Attrot (soprano), Lynne Dawson (soprano), Linda Finnie (mezzo-soprano), Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo-soprano) & Karl Daymond (baritone), Philip Dukes (viola)
Northern Sinfonia, The Sinfonia Chorus, Richard Hickox

Link to complete label authorized album -


Not likely to be first on anyone's list of recommendations is a short opera set in Ireland the RVW wrote in 1937 entitled "Riders to the Sea" based on the play of the same name by John Millington Synge.
It tells the tragic tale of Maurya, an elderly Irish woman who has lost most of her family at sea. There are various travels to Galway and talk of the gorgeous Irish landscape, but it ends with the line -
'They are all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me.'

"And may he have mercy on my soul" really is quite lovely and worth a listen -

It's the 10th selection on the link above.
 

·
Premium Member
Chicago (ex-Dublin)
Joined
·
3,030 Posts
This is the link to the actual "Ralph Vaughn Williams Society" website -


Click on "Sounds" at the top and a drop down box will appear - Click on "Symphonies" or "Orchestral" or "Choral" or whatever catches your fancy and you'll see that each page has videos of the selections.

This is the "Orchestral" page -


Arguably, one of the most popular folk songs would probably be "May your troubles be as few and far apart as my grandmother's teeth".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,582 Posts
I enjoy RVW's music a great deal..it is enjoyable to perform....I tend to favor his more boisterous, lively, gutsy scores, tho his more meditiative, bucolic music is attractive as well - for mev -
Sym #4 tops the symphony list - a furious work, angry, stormy. to me, it's VW's reaction to the brutal horrors of WWI...brutally violent, mechanized, grinding gnashing, tearing, ripping fury of modern war...there's nothing glorious, just wanton destruction and death.
Sym #6 is really fine, as is 9, and 2....7 and 8 are very good, and enjoy #1...I love the slow mvt of #3...with its memorial trumpet solo, the elegaic call from afar, for all the dead soldiers of the Great War.....wonderful, haunting...

VW also wrote some great works for band/wind ensemble, which are classics - standard repertoire - English Folk Song Suite, Toccata Marziale...the Fennell/EWE renditions are classics, never bettered, ime....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,575 Posts
All thoughts on the subject are appreciated. (y)
This is because you haven't read my input yet. :)

That which might seem 'disagreeable' initially may well become, over long periods of time, appetizing.
"trying to decide what is good & bad" is not my notion on how to assess music's values.
A composer manuscript that gets published, performed & recorded via hundreds of people should have enough perceived value not to be labeled as 'bad'.
Yet, persons who are not aesthetically inclined towards 'pastoral' aspects (i.e. modernists) can dismiss Vaughan Williams' oeuvre as cowpat music.
Still others consider anything with operatic singing as 'bad' - just orchestra for them ... no chorus.
As with most other things, such depends upon one's age and sensibilities.

Having said all this, I recommend Flos Campi. (haven't seen this VW opus mentioned yet)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,020 Posts
Just yesterday I started my annual RVW listening festival, this time with the Andrew Davis set of symphonies on Warner. I love this music. The overture to The Wasps has the single greatest tune in all of western music, IMO. His concertos leave me unmoved, but the orchestral works and much of the choral music is utterly fantastic. So is the film music. It's just so sad that his music is neglected, at least in concerts. Thank god for recordings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,735 Posts
I listened to all of his symphonies this week and I too wouldn't start with the first one , nor the 7th or the 9th . I think the best way to get to like his music is starting with the 5th or 8th Symphony or the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis . I really like the 5th Symphony and it was the first I ever listened to if I remember correctly.
The Lark Ascending is one I had to get into...it took some time tbh

I think his concertos are worth a try quite early too imho. The oboe concerto is a gem and so is the Suite For Viola and Small Orchestra.
Enjoy I would say !
 

·
Registered
Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
Joined
·
1,858 Posts
The first symphony I listened to was the 7th, because I loved the film for which he wrote the score. Then the 6th, because there is a lovely melody in the first movement that was used for a TV series, A Family at War. The first I really fell in love with was the 3rd and not because it was "Pastoral"; I read about the story behind it as I listened to it and I now hear the mellow and melancholic recollections of WW1.

Thanks to Becca, the 5th has grown on me enormously. The 4th I struggle with, mostly because it jars so badly against the 3rd which precedes it on the recordings I have.

Of the two compositions for which he is most lauded by the general public in the UK, I prefer Thomas Tallis over Lark Ascending. It moves me almost every time I listen to it. It's one of those pieces that, for me, proves that music can make emotional connections that have nothing to do with extra-musical associations. It's just beautiful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,481 Posts
I always find boxes difficult for getting to know music. Many of those pieces can reward a deep familiarity but it is so hard to get that when there are always other pieces to listen to. Where to start probably depends on what sort of music you like (On Wenlock Edge in the chamber version was an early love for me while it is an "also ran" for many others). Of course, the Tallis Fantasia is an immediate win along with the Lark Ascending. But for the symphonies it is probably worth giving each one a good few hearings before going on hear another. I found 2 and 4 the most easily accessible and then 5 and 6. But 3, 8 and 9 are all very worthwhile and enjoyable, too.
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top