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Lark Ascending, The

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Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams (trans. Silvester)


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General Info

Year: 1914 / 1925 / 2003
Duration: c. 15:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Violin and piano
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Instrumentation

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Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

The Lark Ascending is a poem of 122 lines by the English poet George Meredith about the song of the skylark. Siegfried Sassoon called it matchless of its kind, "a sustained lyric which never for a moment falls short of the effect aimed at, soars up and up with the song it imitates, and unites inspired spontaneity with a demonstration of effortless technical ingenuity ... one has only to read the poem a few times to become aware of its perfection".

The poem inspired the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to write a musical work of the same name, which is now more widely known than the poem. He originally composed it in 1914 for violin and piano. It premiered in 1920, the same year the composer re-scored it for solo violin and orchestra. This version, now the more often performed of the two, premiered in 1921. The piece is one of the most popular in the classical repertoire among British listeners.

- Program Note from Wikipedia


The wind transcription of this work was completed in 2003 for the Hudson Valley Symphonic Wind Ensemble, under the direction of James D. Wayne. Dr. William Silvester, most recently of The College of New Jersey, and Conductor Emeritus of the Eastern Wind Symphony, completed the transcription.

- Program Note by Patric Buchroeder


The Lark Ascending, which Vaughan Williams composed in 1914, is indebted both to English folk song and to the composer’s reading of the work of the English novelist and poet George Meredith. For much of his life, Vaughan Williams lived near Dorking, Surrey, not far from Meredith’s beloved Box Hill, where the poet died, crippled and nearly deaf, in 1909. Vaughan Williams originally wrote The Lark Ascending as a short romance for violin and piano. The autograph is prefaced by lines from Meredith’s poem, “The Lark Ascending.” When Vaughan Williams enlisted in the army in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I (he was forty-one at the time), he set the score aside. The experience of serving in the war -- he was an orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and then an officer -- seems only to have heightened his nostalgia for a simpler time and for a world that no longer existed. It isn’t surprising then, that shortly after he came home in 1919, he picked up The Lark Ascending, lovingly fine-tuned it, and eventually orchestrated it as a touching souvenir of a time gone by. Even the song of the lark itself, which Vaughan Williams suggests in the flourishes of the solo violin, is now a rare thing, the bird’s population in decline and much of its natural habitat irrevocably spoiled.

The Lark Ascending is one of the supreme achievements of English landscape painting. In a single sweep of velvety pastoral writing, Vaughan Williams extols the untroubled joys of nature, the call of the lark, and, particularly in the animated middle section, the genial folk music of earlier times.

Vaughan Williams prefaced his score with these lines from Meredith’s poem:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
’Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aërial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings

- Program Note by Phillip Huscher for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra


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