Ralph Vaughan Williams

From Wind Repertory Project
Ralph Vaughan Williams


Ralph Vaughan Williams OM (12 October 1872, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire – 26 August 1958, London) was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many folk song arrangements set as hymn tunes, and also influenced several of his own original compositions.

Vaughan Williams spent most of his life in London. He studied the viola, piano and organ, and he wanted to compose, but his family discouraged him from an orchestral career. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, and studied composition at the Royal College of Music, as well as organ and piano with several teachers, Although he also studied abroad with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel, his style remained individual and English. He was appointed organist at Lambeth, and his interest in English folk music dates from his stay there. He became good friends with Gustav Holst, and they often shared their works in progress with each other. His work on the English Hymnal greatly influenced his musical career.

He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in France during World War I. From the 1920s onward, he was in increasing demand as a composer and conductor. He composed simple pieces and grand orchestral works and is considered the outstanding composer of his generation in England. According to Hubert J. Foss in The Heritage of Music, “In Vaughan Williams we hear the historic speech of the English people. What he gives us in music is the language of the breakfast table. It is also the language that Shakespeare wrote.”

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