Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending – Work No. 100 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, Fantasia on Greensleeves and The Lark Ascending.

The Lark Ascending is a poem, written by the English poet George Meredith, about the song of the skylark. … This poem was the inspiration behind Ralph Vaughan Williams musical work of the same name. This work, that was originally scored for violin and piano, has become more widely known than the poem. The version that is most frequently performed today is scored for violin and orchestra.

The composer termed the piece a “pastoral romance for orchestra”. It is full of the folk melodies that the composer loved to collect, with those singing violin lines, mingling with the sounds of the earth before breaking free, rising to ever loftier heights. The mood is deeply nostalgic, and his writing evokes the glorious image of the rolling British countryside.

The work has become very popular and is much loved by audiences, particularly in Britain. The piece has been the top choice in the annual poll of Classic FM listeners more times than any other work. The version that we turn to most frequently, at iClassical, is Tasmin Little’s 2013 performance with the BBC Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis. Her charming performance has just the right balance of light and shade and is wonderfully supported by Andrew Davis et al. There are so many fine performances of this musical gem that picking one is an almost impossible task but this Chandos has the added advantages of fine sound and a most outstanding performance of Moeran’s Violin Concerto.

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