Hills (blue remembered and other)

On the idle hill of summer,Sleepy with the flow of streams… Concert: A. E. Housman’s dark rural world in A Shropshire Lad, with its contrasts of pastoral beauty and human tragedy, finds its musical equivalent in the work of George Butterworth; firstly, in Butterworth’s settings of Housman’s verse for voice and piano and then in […]

The folk?

Received opinion is that the industrial revolution and its consequent urbanisation did much to destroy the traditional lifestyles of the English countryside. And, by the early twentieth century – the time any serious attention was paid – a whole raft of behaviours and cultures was in serious decline, verging even on extinction. But the whole subject […]


The ninth symphony had a cool reception in Britain when in was premiered in 1958. Since then critics have considerably revised their opinions, a change of attitude which is succinctly expressed in James Day’s description of the piece as: …the work, not of a tired old man, but of a very experienced one. As you […]

‘Seven variations in search of a theme’

Variations without a theme? How can that be?? Well… After the five movements of the Sinfonia Antartica, the Eighth Symphony returns to the more traditional four movement shape. It’s scored for what Vaughan Williams described as a ‘Schubert’ orchestra plus harp and, as he put it, ‘all the ’phones and ’spiels known to the composer’ […]

The great globe itself …shall dissolve

The sixth symphony: those Vaughan Williams aficionados who attended the 1948 first performance, and who, up to that point, had considered the fourth symphony with its dissonance and brutality to be the exception in the composer’s symphonic output, would have quickly realised their mistake when, at the start of the premiere of the sixth, they heard this – […]