Ninety years ago today saw the premiere of this stunningly beautiful work for orchestra and solo violin by perhaps the twentieth century’s greatest composer. Ralph Vaughan Williams was inspired to compose The Lark Ascending by George Meredith's 122-line poem of the same title. Vaughan Williams first wrote the piece for violin and piano in 1914, but work on the second and more familiar orchestral version was interrupted by World War I. In fact, in a somewhat humorous episode, the composer was actually arrested on suspicion of espionage after he had been seen jotting down what someone took to be a secret code (actually musical notations for the work here considered) while observing a large troop embarkation across the English Channel at the war’s outbreak. (My own artistic endeavors have caused similar run-ins with the authorities on at least one occasion, so I can relate, though that's another story for another time.)
The dream-like beauty of the music really speaks for itself, and its accessibility makes it one of the most popular pieces of classical music around (especially in England, not surprisingly). For my part, I’m intrigued by the way it somewhat paradoxically evokes both Olde England and (by prominent use of the pentatonic scale) the Orient.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Posted by Abrahamus at 8:38 AM