Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872–1958, English composer, considered the outstanding composer of his generation in England. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1894 and studied composition with Parry and Stanford at the Royal College of Music, London, as well as organ and piano with several teachers. Although he also studied abroad with Max Bruch (1897–98) and Ravel (1909), his style remained individual and English. Receiving a Doctorate in Music from Cambridge in 1901, he was appointed organist at Lambeth and his interest in English folk music dates from his stay there. He used the folk idiom first in the orchestral piece The Fen Country (1904), continuing the same style in the three orchestral Norfolk Rhapsodies (1905–7). Elements of English music of the Tudor period interested him and are apparent in his Fantasia for Double Stringed Orchestra on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) and in his Mass in G Minor (1923). His full orchestral works include A London Symphony (1914; revised 1920), A Pastoral Symphony (1921), and the Sixth Symphony (1947). Among his many vocal compositions are the song cycles On Wenlock Edge (1909, texts by A. E. Housman) and Five Mystical Songs (1911, texts by George Herbert). In his opera Sir John in Love (1929; based on Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor), he incorporated the traditional song "Greensleeves," which he also transformed into various instrumental arrangements. Other operas include Hugh the Drover (1924), Riders to the Sea (1937; from the play by J. M. Synge), and The Pilgrim's Progress (1951; libretto after John Bunyan).

See his National Music (1934) and The Making of Music (1955); biographies by J. Day (1961, rev. ed. 1966), U. V. Williams (1964), and pictorial biography by J. E. Lunn and U. V. Williams (1971); studies by E. S. Schwartz (1964), M. Kennedy (1964, repr. 1971), and H. Ottaway (1972).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Selected full-text books and articles

National Music and Other Essays
Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Clarendon Press, 1996 (2nd edition)
The Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams
Frank Howes.
Oxford University Press, 1954
The Symphony: A Listener's Guide
Michael Steinberg.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Ralph Vaughan Williams" begins on p. 654
Some Thoughts on Beethoven's Choral Symphony: With Writings on Other Musical Subjects
Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Oxford University Press, 1953
The Modern Age, 1890-1960
Martin Cooper.
Oxford University Press, 1974
Librarian’s tip: "Ralph Vaughan Williams" begins on p. 507
An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music
Peter S. Hansen.
Allyn and Bacon, 1961
Twenty-Four Portraits
William Rothenstein.
Chatto & Windus, 1923
Librarian’s tip: "Ralph Vaughan Williams" begins on p. 93
The Choral Tradition: An Historical and Analytical Survey from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day
Percy M. Young.
W. W. Norton, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) "Mass in G Minor" and "Sancta Civitas" begins on p. 292
The Best Years of British Film Music, 1936-1958
Jan G. Swynnoe.
Boydell Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Ralph Vaughan Williams in multiple chapters
The Music Lover's Handbook
Elie Siegmeister.
William Morrow, 1943
Librarian’s tip: "The Nature and Evolution of Folk Song" and "The Folk Song and the Composer" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Musical Trends in the 20th Century
Norman Demuth.
Rockliff Publishing, 1975
Librarian’s tip: Chap.Twelve "Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872)"
'Millions Like Us'?: British Culture in the Second World War
Nick Hayes; Jeff Hill.
Liverpool University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Safe and Sound: New Music in Wartime Britain" begins on p. 179
Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West
Alec Harman; Anthony Milner; Wilfrid Mellers.
Oxford University Press, 1962
Librarian’s tip: "Elgar and Vaughan Williams" begins on p. 966
Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America
Robert P. Morgan.
W. W. Norton, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Vaughan Williams" begins on p. 130
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