Vaughan Williams 150
‘How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! Here will we sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears ...’ And on a rapturous swell of sound, the 65-year-old Ralph Vaughan Williams launched his Serenade to Music. The year was 1938, the venue was the Royal Albert Hall, and the orchestra was the London Philharmonic, though it wasn’t the LPO’s first Vaughan Williams premiere, and it wouldn’t be the last. We were privileged to work with ‘RVW’ on many occasions – creating a tradition, and building a relationship with the music of this most individual (and beloved) of British composers that flourishes to this day.
So naturally, Vaughan Williams’s 150th birthday feels very personal to us, and we’ll be celebrating by playing some of his bestloed works. Works like the Serenade to Music and The Lark Ascending – for many listeners, the ultimate expression of Vaughan Williams’s gift for capturing something eternal in the British landscape, and evoking it in music that speaks directly to the heart. And pieces like the Five Sacred Songs and the revolutionary Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – in which Vaughan Williams ventured into the remote past of British music and found the material for a masterwork that even today sounds entirely new.
But if there’s one quality that defines the Vaughan Williams we knew, it was his determination to look further than his contemporaries. Few modern composers cared more passionately about future generations, so it’s fitting that we’re pairing his music with a brand new Violin Concerto by Tom Coult. We’re also inviting Andrew Manze – whose recent Vaughan Williams symphony cycle has been described as ‘unsurpassed, and quite possibly unsurpassable’ – to conduct Vaughan Williams’s rarely-heard Ninth Symphony: for Manze, the final testament of a great 20th-century visionary, a man ‘with his eyes on a different horizon’.