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Ralph Vaughan Williams


Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was born in the Gloucestershire village of Down Ampney, was related to Charles Darwin (Ralph's great-uncle) and the ceramics magnate Josiah Wedgwood (his great-great-grandfather).1)


Ralph learned the piano and violin as a child, and he began collecting traditional folk tunes at a young age. Many of his subsequent works were inspired by these tunes.2)

Royal College Of Music

Vaughan Williams attended the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied with Gustav Holst and Leopold Stokowski. He also continued his studies under Max Bruch for a short while in Berlin.3)

A Pilgrim's Process

Arthur, the composer's father, was ordained pastor of All Saints Church in Down Ampney. Vaughan Williams, while being an agnostic, edited The English Hymnal in 1904, composed some wonderful Christian choral music, and developed an opera based on The Pilgrim's Progress.4)


The composer never took his fortunate upbringing for granted and worked tirelessly for democratic and equitable values throughout his life. He saw music as a part of everyone's daily lives, rather than the domain of a select few.5)

Influenced By Ravel

Vaughan Williams studied orchestration with Ravel in Paris in 1907-1908. It sparked one of his most prolific periods of writing. The premieres of his A Sea Symphony and Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis took place in 1910.6)

Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

Vaughan Williams discovered the theme from Thomas Tallis' Fantasia on a Theme when he was commissioned to put together the 1906 edition of the English Hymnal. His orchestration gave it a decidedly British sound, and it has remained one of his most popular songs.7)

The Lark Ascending

The Lark Ascending, Vaughan Williams' most popular work, was written in 1914, but its premiere was delayed due to the onset of World War I. It was performed in 1921 by violinist Marie Hall, the woman for whom Vaughan Williams wrote it.8)

At War

Vaughan Williams was 41 years old when World War I began, and he served in France and Salonika. Prolonged exposure to gunfire triggered a process of hearing loss that resulted in profound deafness in his old age.9)

English Folk Songs Suite

Vaughan Williams was somewhat emotional about military bands, which he saw as fundamental to the UK's cultural and societal life. As a result, he wrote English Folk Songs Suite for them in 1923.10)


On June 24, 1943, the composer conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere of his Symphony No.5, dedicated to Sibelius. During the Second World War, it provided a welcome respite from the stresses of London life. Many thought the symphony to be his swan song because he was already 70 years old, yet Vaughan Williams moved on to another period of experimental compositions.11)

Fantasia on Greensleeves

The four-minute Fantasia on Greensleeves first appeared in Vaughan Williams' 1928 opera Sir John in Love. The work also includes a folk tune called 'Lovely Joan,' which Vaughan Williams discovered while visiting Sussex.12)

Serenade To Music

Serenade to Music for 16 voice soloists and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams was written in 1938. The language is drawn from a discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which is shown in the image.13)

Ursula Wood

Adeline Fisher was Vaughan Williams' first wife. Following her death in 1951, he married poet Ursula Wood, with whom he collaborated on the libretti for his choral piece The Sons of Light, as well as the opera The Pilgrim's Process and a Christmas cantata, Hodie.14)

Final Days

Vaughan Williams composed outstanding music well into his 80s. At the age of 85, Beethoven was set to oversee the first recording of his Ninth Symphony, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. However, his death on August 26, 1958, the night before the recording sessions were to begin, caused the conductor to inform the musicians that their performance would be a tribute to the composer.15)

ralph_vaughan_williams.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/08 01:12 by eziothekilla34