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Composer: Vaughan Williams, Ralph (1872-1958)

Find classical music concert, opera, ballet and dance listings | Vaughan Williams
Fact file
Year of birth1872
Year of death1958
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Period20th century
June 2020
Evening performance
Matinee performance
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BudapestGeniuses & Stars

Geniuses & Stars
Vaughan Williams, Britten, Elgar
Concerto Budapest; Domonkos Héja; Matan Porat

LondonFaure Requiem by Candlelight

© Marc Gascoigne | St Martin-in-the-Fields
Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Fauré
Brandenburg Sinfonia; Andrew Earis; St Martin's Chorus; Gabriella Noble

ZürichSeason closing with Stéphane Réty and Daniel Hope

© Zürcher Kammerorchester (c) Sandro Diener
Bach, Vaughan Williams, Vivaldi
Zurich Chamber Orchestra; Stéphan Réty; Daniel Hope; Naoki Kitaya

LondonWilliam Bennett’s celebration

Gaubert, Martin, Elgar, Bach C.P.E., Taffanel, Mucha, Janáček, Fauré, Bozza, Hue, Bach, Vaughan Williams, Bonis, Mendelssohn, Doppler, Kreisler
Anna Kondrashina; Robert Manasse; Emily Beynon; Mathilde Calderini

KuhmoSouvenir d'un paysage inconnu

Bortniansky, Vavilov, Vaughan Williams, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky
Kuhmo Chamber Soloists
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Resurrection Symphony: Rattle returns to live music-making in Munich

Sir Simon Rattle
As Europe’s concert-giving tentatively emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, Simon Rattle and the BRSO celebrate its rebirth with a sublime pairing of Vaughan Williams and Mozart.
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Loss and foreboding from Pappano and the LSO

Sir Antonio Pappano © Liam Hennebry
In these difficult times a reduced audience witnessed a concert of music that didn’t exactly offer much solace, but which possessed a powerful sense of loss and foreboding that seemed entirely timely. 
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Music on autopilot: Michael Seal and the CBSO at Symphony Hall

Michael Seal © Eric Richmond
Attempts at crowd-pleasing go awry in music by Vaughan Williams and Gary Carpenter, while John Foulds escapes unscathed.
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Light amid darkness: stellar performance from Tenebrae

Tenebrae sings “Music of the Spheres” © Yaya Stempler
An exquisite evening of British 20th-century choral music from Tenebrae under Nigel Short at the Sydney Festival, with outstanding renditions of the music of Parry, Bingham and Stanford.
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Pappano and the LSO furious in Vaughan Williams' Fourth Symphony

Sir Antonio Pappano © Musacchio & Ianniello

Sir Antonio Pappano has taken up the baton in English works by Elgar, Tippett and Vaughan Williams.

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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