About this Recording
8.550733 - VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphonies Nos. 3, 'Pastoral', and 6

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958)
Symphony No.3 (Pastoral Symphony)
Symphony No.6 in E Minor

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in the Gloucestershire village of Down Ampney in 1872, the son of a clergyman. His ancestry on both his father's and mother's side was of some intellectual distinction. His father was descended from a family eminent in the law, while his maternal grandfather was a Wedgwood and his grandmother a Darwin. On the death of his father in 1875 the family moved to live with his mother's father at Leith Hill Place in Surrey. As a child Vaughan Williams learned the piano and the violin and received a conventional upper middle class education at Charterhouse, after which he delayed entry to Cambridge, preferring instead to study at the Royal College of Music, where his teachers included Hubert Parry and Walter Parrat, later Master of the Queen's Musick, both soon to be knighted. In 1892 he took up his place at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read History, but took composition lessons from Charles Wood. After graduation in both Music and History, he returned to the Royal College, where he studied composition with Stanford, and, perhaps more important, became a friend of a fellow-student Gustav Holst. The friendship with Holst was to prove of great importance in frank exchanges of views on one another's compositions in the years following.

In 1897 Vaughan Williams married and took the opportunity to visit Berlin, where he had lessons from Max Bruch and widened his musical experience. In England he turned his attention to the collection of folk-music in various regions of the country, an interest that materially influenced the shape of his musical language. In 1908 he went to Paris to take lessons, particularly in orchestration, from Ravel, and had by now begun to make a reputation for himself as a composer, not least with the first performance in 1910 of his first symphony, A Sea Symphony, setting words by Walt Whitman, and his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in the same year. The even tenor of his life was interrupted by the war, when he enlisted at once in the Royal Army Medical Corps. 1914 was also the year of A London Symphony and of his rhapsodic work for violin and orchestra, The Lark Ascending. Three years later, after service in Salonica that seemed to him ineffective, he took a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery and was posted to France, where he was also able to make some use of his abilities as a musician.

After the war Vaughan Williams returned to the Royal College of Music, now as a professor of composition, a position he retained until 1938. In these years he came to occupy a commanding position in the musical life of the country, with a series of compositions that seemed essentially English, the apparent successor of Elgar, although his musical language was markedly different. The second war brought the challenge of composition for the cinema, with notable scores for The 49th Parallel in 1940 and a number of other films, culminating in 1949 in music for the film Scott of the Antarctic, the basis of his later Sinfonia Antartica, the seventh of his nine symphonies. Other works of the last decade of his life included two more symphonies, the opera The Pilgrim's Progress, a violin sonata and concertos for harmonica and for tuba, remarkable adventures for an octogenarian. He died in August 1958, four months after the first performance of his last symphony.

Vaughan Williams wrote his Third Symphony, the aptly named Pastoral Symphony, in 1922, and revised the work in 1955. Conceived first in the countryside of Northern France towards the end of the war, the symphony has a certain sameness of mood throughout, an air of tranquillity that may be perceived in part as a celebration of the return of peace, described in the composer's own programme note on the first performance as "almost entirely quiet and contemplative". One hostile critic, however, satirised the work as "a cow looking over a gate", a verdict that does little justice to the subtlety and bold originality of conception of the music. The score includes a last movement vocalise for soprano or tenor, although the alternative use of a clarinet is happily suggested. Other variants are permitted, although the full score calls for three flutes, one doubling piccolo, two oboes, cor anglais, three clarinets, the third doubling bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets and trombones, tuba, a percussion section of timpani, triangle, bass drum, cymbals and celesta, harp and strings. In addition to these instruments there are parts in the second movement for natural trumpet in E fiat and for natural horn.

The symphony breaks with tradition at once in its first movement, which unfolds in a generally meditative mood. A modal accompanimental figure from flutes, joined by clarinets, serves to introduce a theme heard first from cellos and double basses, with the harp. Thereafter thematic elements follow one another in material subtly related, making use of solo instruments and the telling effects of divided string parts, with violins, violas and cellos divided at times into four. The movement ends with a solo cor anglais over divided string chords and a final brief and muted reference to the first theme from cellos and basses. The first theme of the second movement is announced by a solo French horn over a sustained string chord, the theme then handed, over changed harmonies, to oboe and clarinet and then to solo viola and flute. The movement contains two cadenzas, the first for a natural trumpet and the second for natural horn, both with the characteristic intonation of the true harmonic series. The third movement, marked Moderato pesante, is a primordial dance, with its own rhythmic peculiarities, with which a second theme of folk contour, stated by the trumpet, offers a contrast. The movement ends with a curious coda, a Presto introduced imitatively by reduced numbers of strings with thematic material that again proclaims its national origin. The last movement is shaped by the opening solo, for voice or for clarinet, accompanied only by a soft roll of the drum. The modal thematic material that unfolds leads to the final re-appearance of the rhapsodic solo, now accompanied only by sustained notes from the muted violins at a height to which they have ascended in the bars immediately preceding, an inversion of the accompaniment of the opening of the movement.

The Sixth Symphony of Vaughan Williams was written after the second World War. It was completed in 1946, when Michael Mullinar, to whom it was finally dedicated, played it through on the piano to the composer and a small group of friends. After revisions it was played through by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in December 1947 and first performed in public early in the following year. Some critics chose to describe the symphony as a War Symphony, its last movement seen by them as a prophecy of desolation. Vaughan Williams rejected this interpretation but went so far as to quote Prospero's farewell to his art in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded by a sleep", with reference to the last movement. This was by no means his own farewell to music, whatever mood may have come upon him as he grew older.

The symphony is scored for a large orchestra that includes a tenor saxophone, a xylophone and two harps, the second an optional doubling, in addition to a large woodwind and brass section, full percussion and strings. The first movement is in broadly traditional tripartite form. The first thematic material is developed in a transition that leads to the second, introduced by flute, cor anglais, first violin and viola. The movement ends with a recapitulation, with the second theme entrusted to the strings, accompanied by harp chords. The second movement, shifting from E major to B flat minor, is in ternary form, with its principal subject at first entrusted to unison strings, with clarinets and bassoons, over a sustained trumpet B flat. A drum-roll, starting softly but increasing in volume, leads to the central section of the movement, heralded by the brass, before the hushed entry of unison strings with a second theme. The third movement is a Scherzo with a Trio repeated after the varied repetition of the Scherzo itself. The first theme starts with a series of rising augmented fourths, ascending through the orchestra. The opening of the Trio is announced by the saxophone, over ostinato viola semiquavers. This theme is varied when it re-appears in the final section of the movement, with the full power of the whole orchestra. The Epilogue, a slow movement, starts with muted violins, over a note from the bass clarinet, sustained to link it with what went before. Muted brass introduce the second section of the movement with chords echoed by divided strings. A solo oboe starts a third section with a variant of the opening theme, while the final section, with its tremolo strings, serves as a brief summary. The last bars fade to nothing, as violins and violas sustain a final chord.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was founded on the 22nd May 1893 by Dan Godfrey, the son of a Victorian band-master. At first it was known as the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra and provided music for one of the most prosperous resorts on the South coast of England. Godfrey served as principal conductor for the next forty years and established one of the most famous orchestras in Great Britain. Since then the orchestra has worked under a succession of distinguished Principal Conductors, the most recent being Sir Charles Groves, Constantin Silvestri, Paavo Berglund and Rudolf Barshai. In September 1988 the American conductor Andrew Litton was appointed to this role at the same time as Kees Bakels became the Principal Guest Conductor. In May 1993 the orchestra launched its centenary celebrations, during the year undertaking its first tour of the United States of America. The visit consolidated a touring history which has included Russia, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Switzerland, Finland, Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has recorded for a number of labels, and has highly acclaimed interpretations of the complete Tchaikovsky Symphonies in addition to the complete Symphonies of Vaughan Williams for Naxos.

Kees Bakels
Kees Bakels was born in Amsterdam, beginning his musical career as a violinist. He studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatory and at the Academy Ghigiana in Siena. During his studies he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently held the position of Associate Conductor with that orchestra. At the same time he became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, which he has directed in festivals in Finland, Belgium and Spain.

Kees Bakels has conducted all the major Dutch orchestras, as well as orchestras in Europe and Russia. He has also directed many concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1985 conducted his first London Promenade concert with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. From the beginning of his career, Kees Bakels has concentrated as much on opera as on the symphonic repertoire and has conducted English National Opera productions of Aida and Fidelio and productions by the Welsh National Opera of La Bohème and Die Zauberflöte. He has also specialised in the performance of lesser known operas by Mascagni and Leoncavallo and earlier works by Verdi in the concert-hall, broadcasting studio and opera-house. He became Principal Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in September 1988, and in 1991 was made Principal Guest Conductor in recognition of his close relationship with the orchestra.

Business Partners in the Arts are a group of businesses that have combined some of their promotional resources to support the arts in the South West of England. Each partner firm believes that the arts have a critical effect on the social and economic structure of the local community. They also want to see the region's international orchestra flourish and expand, providing even more services to a regular touring area that stretches across most of southern England.

The Business Partnership has helped many arts organizations since it was first established in 1989. Founder members, BT, through their Exeter office, and Bearnes, the art auctioneers, were joined almost immediately by Renwicks Garages, the West country VW and Peugeot dealer. More recently, Bray Leino, the Devon based advertising group, Clerical Medical and West country Television, have joined the organization.

In supporting the Bournemouth Orchestras, and this recording, the Partner firms hope to allow a wider public a chance to hear these important works, and perhaps help persuade other hesitant corporations to support the Arts.

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