Vaughan Williams


  • I don't know whether I like it, but it is what I meant.
  • But in the next world I shan't be doing music, with all the striving and disappointments. I shall be being it.
  • No, it's a Bb. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but it's right.
  • The duty of the words is to say just as much as the music has left unsaid and no more.
  • Art for art's sake has never flourished in England. We are often called inartistic because our art is unconscious. Our drama and poetry, like our laws and our constitution, have evolved by accident while we thought we were doing something else, and so it will be with music. The composer must not shut himself up and think about art, he must live with his fellows and make his art an expression of the whole life of the community – if we seek for art we shall not find of Vaughan Williams
  • Before going any further may we take it that the object of art is to obtain a partial revelation of that which is beyond human senses and human faculties – of that, in fact, which is spiritual? And that the means which we employ to induce this revelation are those very senses and faculties themselves?
  • The art of music above all the other arts is the expression of the soul of a nation.
  • The business of finding a nation's soul is a long and slow one at the best and a great many prophets must be slain in the course of it. Perhaps when we have slain enough prophets future generations will begin to build their tombs.
  • The audience is requested not to refrain from talking during the overture. Otherwise they will know all the tunes before the opera begins.
  • There [is] a feeling of recognition, as of meeting an old friend, which comes to us all in the face of great artistic experiences. I had the same experience when I first heard an English folksong, when I first saw Michelangelo's Day and Night, when I suddenly came upon Stonehenge or had my first sight of New York City – the intuition that I had been there already.
  • It never seems to occur to people that a man might just want to write a piece of music.


Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Gloucestershire on 12 October 1872, died 26 August 1958. He was an English composer whose works included operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies, written over nearly fifty years. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk-song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century.

Vaughan Williams was born to a well-to-do family with strong moral views and a progressive social outlook. Throughout his life he sought to be of service to his fellow citizens, and believed in making music as available as possible to everybody. He wrote many works for amateur and student performance. He was musically a late developer, not finding his true voice until his late thirties; his studies in 1907–08 with the French composer Maurice Ravel helped him clarify the textures of his music and free it from Teutonic influences.

Vaughan Williams is among the best-known British symphonists, noted for his very wide range of moods, from stormy and impassioned to tranquil, from mysterious to exuberant. Among the most familiar of his other concert works are Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) and The Lark Ascending (1914). His vocal works include hymns, folk-song arrangements and large-scale choral pieces. He wrote eight works for stage performance between 1919 and 1951. Although none of his operas became popular repertoire pieces, his ballet “Job: A Masque for Dancing” (1930) was successful and has been frequently staged.

He became conductor of the Leith Hill Music Festival in Surrey in 1905, and conducted annual performances in Dorking until 1953, including an annual performance of a Bach Passion, and annual competitions between the local choirs, followed by a combined performance of the competition pieces.


Wikipedia - - RVW Society - - Wikipedia list of compositions

RVW memorial library at Cecil Sharp House - - online archive of recordings


Vaughan Williams at war - - 3 min short film of him and interview - - 22 min documentary

Coastal Command, 1942 film with score by RVW - - Lark Ascending – recreation of the premiere

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis - - London Symphony with paintings of London

RVW conducts his 5th Symphony in 1952 - - 5th Symphony at the Proms, 2012