John Wilson leads the BBC Philharmonic in Nottingham for this illustrated introduction to Vaughan Williams’ music.
Wilson is joined by broadcaster Stephen Johnson who explores the Sixth Symphony with live musical excerpts, before a complete performance of both pieces.
Wilson, a devotee of Vaughan Williams, reveals two sharply contrasting sides to the British composer’s work. One of Vaughan Williams’ earliest works displays his fascination with folk song; In the Fen Country is tinged with echoes of Delius and evokes the East Anglian countryside.
It’s a far cry from the ferocity that the Sixth Symphony unleashed in 1948. Although the composer was quick to dismiss speculation that it was a reflection of the years of conflict that preceded it, and the nuclear threat that they initiated, there’s no denying the tension in this post-war masterpiece, whose opening movement rampages across an unforgiving landscape. The sense of threat is at its highest in the ominous slow movement before a demonic scherzo gives way to a desolate Epilogue.