Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending

Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending

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The Lark Ascending is notoriously difficult to play, but the best performances of it are seemingly effortless and free. It remains the composer’s most popular work, and seems certain to grace the highest echelons of the Classic FM Hall of Fame for many years to come.


1. The Lark Ascending 

Nicola Benedetti (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Litton

The Lark Ascending was the last work Vaughan Williams completed before the declaration of war on 4th August 1914. It was only on his return following active duty that he rediscovered the manuscript sitting in a drawer. 

2. Fantasia on 'Greensleeves'

    The popular Fantasia on 'Greensleeves', economically scored for flute, harp and strings, is invariably heard in the arrangement made by the Robert Greaves in 1934.

    3-5. English Folk Song Suite

    Vaughan Williams was also rather sentimental about Britain’s musical history. The existence of military bands was something he recognised as being crucially important to the UK’s cultural and community life. So, in 1923, he composed his English Folk Songs Suite for them.

    6. Norfolk Rhapsody No.1

    The title Norfolk Rhapsody was suggested by Vaughan Williams' use of three folksongs which he had collected in King's Lynn.

    7. The Wasps

    It was thanks to Cambridge University that Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the music for a satirical production of the Aristophanes comedy, The Wasps. For decades after writing the music for The Wasps, the Overture was the only section to be regularly performed.

    8. Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'

    Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus is a musical depiction of the new Testament story of the rich man and the beggar. It contains superbly sumptuous string writing, with sweeping melodies stretching across the orchestra, underpinned by deep and resonant harmonies. 

    9. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis 

    Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner,
    New Queen’s Hall Orchestra,
     Barry Wordsworth

    Rather than simply being written for a single ensemble, the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is, in fact, scored for large string orchestra, slightly smaller string ensemble, and a string quartet, all playing alongside each other. This timeless masterwork announced once and for all the arrival of major new force in British music.

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