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Composer: Vaughan Williams, Ralph (1872-1958)

Fact file
Year of birth1872
Year of death1958
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Period20th century
August 2018
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Evening performance
Matinee performance
Upcoming eventsSee more...

LondonProms at ... Cadogan hall 6: The Sense of An Ending

Bridge, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Mvula, Parry
Sakari Oramo; BBC Singers

AmsterdamLast of the SummerNights

Last of the SummerNights
Rossini, Coates, Vaughan Williams, Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Falla, Rodrigo, Ravel
Philharmonie Zuidnederland; Bas Wiegers; Pablo Sáinz Villegas; Rosanne Philippens

BrusselsStravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps

Vaughan Williams, Connesson, Stravinsky
Brussels Philharmonic; Stéphane Denève; Renaud Capuçon; Flemish Radio Choir

BrugesStravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps

Vaughan Williams, Connesson, Stravinsky
Brussels Philharmonic; Stéphane Denève; Renaud Capuçon; Flemish Radio Choir

MalvernSovereign Brass

Vaughan Williams, Holst, Copland, Bernstein
Latest reviewsSee more...

A pair of satisfying voyages at Edinburgh International Festival

Martyn Brabbins © Benjamin Ealovega
Thea Musgrave’s pictorial writing sits well next to an exhilarating Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony
*****
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Lullabies and dreams from Connolly and Middleton

Dame Sarah Connolly © Jan Capinski
The perfect invitation to daydream on a hot afternoon. 
*****
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London calling: Haydn and Vaughan Williams at the Proms

Andrew Manze © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
An imaginative pairing of London symphonies find the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in good form. 
****1
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Purity and passion in first class British music

Martyn Brabbins © BBC | Mark Allan
Even if Hubert Parry was overshadowed by Holst and Vaughan Williams, this was a splendid concert of British music. 
*****
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Prom 1: Five Telegrams and a Harbinger of War

Five Telegrams from Kensington Gardens © Mark Pullinger
Marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, Anna Meredith and 59 Productions' work proves a powerful, often surprisingly upbeat, commission.
****1
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Biography

Vaughan Williams is arguably the greatest composer Britain has seen since the days of Henry Purcell. In a long and extensive career, he composed music notable for its power, nobility and expressiveness, representing, perhaps, the essence of 'Englishness'.

Vaughan Williams was born in 1872 in the Cotswold village of Down Ampney. He was educated at Charterhouse School, then Trinity College, Cambridge. Later he was a pupil of Stanford and Parry at the Royal College of Music after which he studied with Max Bruch in Berlin and Maurice Ravel in Paris.

At the turn of the century he was among the very first to travel into the countryside to collect folk-songs and carols from singers, notating them for future generations to enjoy. As musical editor of The English Hymnal he composed several hymns that are now world-wide favourites (For all the Saints, Come down O love Divine). Later he also helped to edit The Oxford Book of Carols, with similar success.

Vaughan Williams volunteered to serve in the Field Ambulance Service in Flanders for the 1914–1918 war, during which he was deeply affected by the carnage and the loss of close friends such as the composer George Butterworth.

Before the war he had met and then sustained a long and deep friendship with the composer Gustav Holst. For many years Vaughan Williams conducted and led the Leith Hill Music Festival, conducting Bach’s St Matthew Passion on a regular basis. He also became professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in London.

In his lifetime, Vaughan Williams eschewed all honours with the exception of the Order of Merit which was conferred upon him in 1938. He died in August 1958, his ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey, near Purcell.

In a long and productive life, music flowed from his creative pen in profusion. Hardly a musical genre was untouched or failed to be enriched by his work, which included nine symphonies, five operas, film music, ballet and stage music, several song cycles, church music and works for chorus and orchestra.

© Stephen Connock MBE
Vice President Ralph Vaughan Williams Society