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Incidental music to Electra (Preview)

  • Text
  • Electra
  • Music
  • Williams
by Ralph Vaughan Williams | Orchestra and chorus

FOREWORD Introduction

FOREWORD Introduction to the series Discussions between the Vaughan Williams estate and Promethean Editions began in 2004 about the possibility of the New Zealand company issuing hitherto unpublished works by Ralph Vaughan Williams in a series based at Massey University, Wellington, and under the general editorship of Robert Hoskins. The first fruit of this co-operation was Nathaniel Lew’s edition of music written by Vaughan Williams for a drama based on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was performed at Reigate in 1906. Since then, incidental music has become the keynote of the series, which went on to make available the composer’s scores for radio productions of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Richard II (in the event never broadcast) and, most recently, three Greek plays: Electra, The Bacchae and Iphigenia in Tauris. All these works are not only mature in themselves but also signposts to aspects of the composer’s future development. Pilgrim’s Progress became a sort of leitmotif throughout his life, for his Reigate music led to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, the Fifth Symphony, music for a radio production in 1942, and finally his great opera The Pilgrim’s Progress of 1951. His adeptness at writing incidental music for plays led eventually, in the later part of his long life, to his exploring music for cinema, a new and enriching creative experience exemplified in his film-score for Scott of the Antarctic and its elaboration as the Sinfonia Antartica. The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust is immensely grateful to Promethean Editions for establishing this important series, and to the editors who have been involved, Nathaniel Lew and Alan Tongue. We will watch the further growth of the series with close interest. Hugh Cobbe, Director, March 2019 Publisher’s note The Publisher gratefully acknowledges the assistance from the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, Dr Robert Hoskins and Dr Allan Badley in the publication of this edition. We are also very grateful to the executors of the Evelyn Page Estate who have granted us permission to use Page’s wonderful 1950 portrait of RVW. Promethean Editions, Wellington, 2019 PEV03 – iv

Vaughan Williams Biography Ralph Vaughan Williams, a descendant of the Darwins and Wedgwoods, was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, on 12 October 1872. He was educated at Charterhouse, the Royal College of Music and Trinity College, Cambridge. His composition teachers included Hubert Parry, Charles Wood and Charles Villiers Stanford. He also studied with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel, and enjoyed inspirational musical friendships with Gustav Holst and George Butterworth. He married Adeline Fisher in 1897 and, after her death, married Ursula Wood in 1953. Vaughan Williams began his career as a folk song collector, music editor of The English Hymnal (1906) and founding conductor of the Leith Hill Festival—a post he maintained for over fifty years. His reputation as a composer was established in 1910 with performances of A Sea Symphony (1909) and the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910). After the premiere of A London Symphony (1913), Vaughan Williams enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in France as a wagon orderly. In 1919 he was appointed to the staff of the Royal College of Music and in 1921 became conductor of the Bach Choir. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935 and was recognized, even revered, as the major musical figure of his time. He died on 26 August 1958. His ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey. Vaughan Williams’ vast musical output includes song settings of Housman, Stevenson and Whitman; The Lark Ascending (1920), an iridescent orchestral miniature where the solo violin evokes a trilling lark rising above flat fields of ripening corn; Sancta Civitas (1923-25), an oratorio remarkable for the visionary precision of its expression; the opera, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1951), the last of several Bunyan-based settings (the first of which is published as PME14); and Riders to the Sea (1925-32), an operatic rendition of J.M. Synge’s play set against the unforgiving landscape of the Aran Islands. At the heart of his creativity lies a sequence of nine symphonies that move from the meditative pastoralism of the Third (1921) and Fifth (1938-43) to the louring existential dramas of the Fourth (1931-34), Sixth (1944-47) and Seventh (1949-52); the Ninth (1956-57) is played against the tragic backdrop of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. At the centre of all Vaughan Williams’ work is a robust delight in expressing his country, past and present, as a means of perpetually renewing himself and of discovering his own potential humanity. In a valedictory broadcast (27 August 1958) following the news of Vaughan Williams’ death, the New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn (a former student of RVW) spoke of his music as sown in soil and reaped in wisdom: It speaks honestly and directly, and is not afraid sometimes to speak with affirmation. It draws into itself the whole rediscovered heritage of English sixteenth-century music, folk song and hymn tune, love of countryside and traditional ways. It always seems right for its purpose, for the particular truth that it wants to convey, and it seems to me one of the things we best learn from him—that greatness in art springs finally from conviction. Robert Hoskins, Founding Series Editor PEV03 – v

Score Library

Electra Incidental Music Vaughan Williams