Ralph Vaughan Williams

Two composers—working centuries apart—come together in Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis has the story about what became one of Vaughn Williams' most successful orchestral works.

Simon Pauly

This Sunday, January 21st at 1 pm, and Monday, January 22nd at 7 pm on HD-2, our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast on WRTI 90.1 brings you a work very familiar through recordings, but not often performed in the concert hall: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

The Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, performed by David Greed, violin, and the English Northern Philharmonia conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, is featured on CD 2 in the WRTI 60th Anniversary Classical 3-CD set.

Has there ever been a musical portrait of such beauty, grace, and tranquility? Inspired by George Meredith’s poem, this gorgeously meditative piece, originally written for violin and piano, was rearranged for violin and orchestra by Vaughan Williams in 1920. Between folksong-like orchestral interludes, the solo violinist takes flight playing soft, fluttering ascending and descending pentatonic (five-note) scale patterns, “ever winging up and up.”

Vaughan Williams’s free use of rhythm in the cadenzas enables the soloist to “lift us with him as he goes,” vividly depicting the song and motion of the lark as he takes wing out over the horizon.