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A Country Childhood

Donald Macleod explores Vaughan Williams's early years, revealing a slow starter who some thought lacked the talents needed to be a successful musician.

There's a type of composer who is a biographer's dream: a prodigy, spilling out masterpieces from the nursery, ideally triumphing in the face of an impoverished background, and all cut short by an early death. Ralph Vaughan Williams was none of those. And his story is all the more fascinating for it.

This week Donald Macleod charts the long life and career of this most English composer, the son of a lawyer, educated at home then at Charterhouse, but who also loved watching Mickey Mouse more than anything else at the cinema. We follow him from his childhood, when after six months of piano lessons 'he can't play the simplest thing decently', through to his last years, when even in his 80s he was composing works which still define his reputation.

We meet a man deeply in love with his country and its cultural traditions; collaborator with greats like Elgar and Holst, but who also had a passion for French music and the work of Ravel, who became a trusted teacher and personal friend. We follow him through two world wars, where active service saw him permanently scarred by sights which could never leave his memory. Plus we explore the more intimate side of the composer, who adored his first wife but then forged a new relationship, both personal and musical, after she died.

Fantasia on "Greensleeves"
Margaret Campbell, Colin Lilley, flutes
Audrey Douglas, harp
English String Orchestra
William Boughton, conductor

On Wenlock Edge
Andrew Kennedy, tenor
Dante Quartet
Simon Crawford-Phillips, piano

Symphony No 4, 1st movement
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel, conductor

Toward the Unknown Region - song for chorus and orchestra
Corydon Singers
Corydon Orchestra
Matthew Best, conductor

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Hallé Orchestra
Mark Elder, conductor.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 4 Apr 2016 18:30

Music Played

  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Fantasia on 'Greensleeves'

    Performer: Margaret Campbell. Performer: Colin Lilley. Performer: Audrey Douglas. Performer: English String Orchestra. Conductor: William Boughton.
    • NIMBUS : NI-5213.
    • NIMBUS.
    • 2.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    On Wenlock Edge

    Performer: Simon Crawford‐Phillips. Singer: Andrew Kennedy. Ensemble: Dante String Quartet.
    • SIGNUM : SIGCD-112.
    • SIGNUM.
    • 5.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Symphony No. 4 In F minor

    Orchestra: Bournemouth S O. Conductor: Paul Daniel.
    • Naxos: 8557276.
    • Naxos.
    • 1.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Toward the unknown region

    Performer: Corydon Orchestra. Performer: Corydon Singers. Conductor: Matthew Best. Conductor: Matthew Best.
    • HYPERION : CDA-66655.
    • 10.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis

    Orchestra: Hallé. Conductor: Sir Mark Elder.
    • Halle CDHLL 7540.
    • Halle.
    • 1.


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