Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – No. 21 in our collection

Ralph Vaughan Williams (12.10.1872 – 26.08.1958) was an English composer born, near to the home of iClassical, in the Cotswold village of Down Ampney, near Cricklade in Gloucestershire where his father was a vicar.

Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote nine symphonies (written over nearly fifty years), operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces, film scores and he was an ardent collector of English folk songs. His most popular works include his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on Greensleeves.

The Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis was composed in 1910 following a stay in Paris where he studied orchestration with the great composer, Maurice Ravel. The Tallis Fantasia, is a work for string orchestra¹ and it was first performed in 1910 at Gloucester Cathedral during the annual Three Choirs Festival. This lush, expansive work for string orchestra amply proves that Vaughan Williams’s focus on orchestration had paid off. He blends the instruments exquisitely, creating a rich and unmistakably British sound in a work that lasts around a quarter of an hour.

We have chosen a fine, recent performance of this work performed, on a single CD, by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder.

Besides being on a single CD this choice has the advantage of also containg a performance of the Wasps Overture and one of the finest versions of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 3 ‘A Pastoral Symphony’.

Listen on Spotify or buy from Presto Classical.

We still believe that a performance by the late, Sir Adrian Boult is unsurpassed in this work but, to the best of our knowledge, it is only currently available as part of a Warner Classics set – Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, The Lark Ascending & other favourites.

Listen on Spotify or buy from Presto Classical.

View the other works in our collection.

¹ It is actually composed for scored for a full-size string orchestra, slightly smaller string ensemble composed of a single player from each section (ideally placed apart from Orchestra), and a string quartet, all playing alongside each other.