Classical Cafe:

This Week's Listening: Swamped by Ralph Vaughn Williams

Summer is probably a perfect time to discover the charms of 20th Century English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958). While music writers and critics have long considered his ability to evoke a sense of time and place as both an asset and a defect, time has allowed us to be more accepting of a style that has genuine personality.

Ralph Vaughn Williams.jpg

His Symphony No. 5 was premiered on this date in 1943 (June 24) by the London Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall and should be a part of your listening (along with the Sea Symphony) if you are coming up to speed on the mature Vaughn Williams. However, for the sake of evocative summer listening, I am suggesting two other works: the Pastoral Symphony from 1922 and his tone poem In the Fen Country which was first performed in 1909. The composer described the latter work as a "symphonic impression" intended to evoke images of the marshy, but beautiful landscape of the parts of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire that are known as the Fen Country. However, should your mind's eye conjure up pictures of meadows with lush grass, tranquil streams, and dappled sunlight filtering through the trees, no one will be the wiser.


For a recording, I can suggest Vaughan Williams: Fantasia, Etc with Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on the Philips label, 442427. (As usual, you can probably find a recording on YouTube.) Be sure to inquire at the Sights and Sounds department of the downtown Knox County Public Library.

For some non-musical companion reading, here are two intriguing choices:

-- The Old Stories: Folk Tales from East Anglia and the Fen Country by Kevin Crossley-Holland

-- Fen Country, a collection of short mystery stories by Edmund Crispin



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About This Blog

Alan Sherrod serves up a big plate of nourishing commentary on the Knoxville classical music and fine arts scene.