Vaughan Williams Composes His Nine Symphonies (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: The nine symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams spanned nearly a half century and were instrumental in establishing a school of twentieth century English symphonists.
Summary of Event
In 1903, Ralph Vaughan Williams began work on his First Symphony; his ninth and last symphony received its premiere in 1958. For more than half a century, he was the principal figure in English music, at first a new voice and at the end the conservator and transmitter of a distinguished symphonic tradition.
Vaughan Williams’ first three symphonies form a kind of triptych. Their composer did not number them, but assigned them titles. The first, A Sea Symphony, was written between 1903 and 1909 and premiered at the Leeds Festival in 1910. The second, A London Symphony, written in 1912 and 1913, premiered in 1914 and was revised in 1920 and 1933. The third, Pastoral Symphony, was completed in 1921 and premiered the following year. The three symphonies depict, respectively, the sea, the city, and the countryside, and they are large-scale works, comparable in their variety and scope to novels by George Eliot or Thomas Hardy.
A Sea Symphony can be called a symphony only in the sense that it has four movements (the third of which is a scherzo) and is a large-scale composition. American poet Walt Whitman’s free verse, which provided the text for the symphony, did not...
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