Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wind Band Composer Snapshot: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Willliams(1872-1958) English 20th Cty Composer/Conductor
- composed symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores.
- collected of English folk music(over 800 songs) and used them in compositions.
- attended the Royal College of Music where he met Holst in 1895
- Served in WW I as stretcher carrier, named Director of Music, First Army.
- The bulk of his major works are his 9 symphonies, yet his contribution to the wind world is important.
- He is considered, along with Holst and Jacob, to be one of the British Band Masters
The first page of the Score

Major Wind Works:
English Folk Song Suite (1923) 10:30Min Grade V
- Full military Band Instrumentation
- 3 movements: March-Seventeen Come Sunday(title song, Pretty Caroline,and Dives and Lazarus), Intermezzo-My Bonny Boy(and Greenbushes), and March- Folk Songs from Somerset(blow away the Morning Dew, High Germany, The Tree So High, and John Barleycorn)
- Gordon Jacob arranged this suite for orchestra.
- Its world premiere was given at Kneller Hall on July 4, 1923 in London.
- Made known in the US by the 1957 Fennell Eastman WE recording.
- Most of the 9 melodies appear first in solo lines making it a great piece to showcase multiple players.

Sea Songs (1923) 4 min Grade III
- Originally part of the aforementioned suite as the second movement, there is some debate on this, but I believe it to be quite plausible..
- based on folk songs Princess Royal, Admiral Benbow and Portsmouth.
- written for the band of the Royal Military School of Music

Toccata Marziale (1924) Meaning “Martial(soldierly) Toccata” 5 min VI
- Full military band instrumentation.
- broke away from the concept of the military band original repertoire being mainly a vehicle for ceremonial purposes.
- extensive use of counterpoint and dynamic ranges(like Hammersmith, maybe an influence on Holst because of their relationship?)
- 158 measures based on one motive that is developed into 5 additional themes. Great study in balance of melody/counter melody.
- Fennell has a “Basic Band Repertory” essay on it(Instrumentalist 1976)

Ralph as a Young Man
Scherzo alla Marcia(1956) for Chamber Winds 4min Grade IV(MD)

- This an extracted movement(2nd) from Symphony #8 The first uses full orchestra, second winds, third strings, fourth all.
- Instrumentation: fl, pic, ob I/II, 2 clar, 3 bsn, 2 horns, 2 tpts, 3 tbns
Other Works of Significance:
- Variations for Wind Band (1957) arr. Hunsberger(1988) originally for orchestra 14Min Grade VI
- Rhosymedre (1920) Trans. Beeler(1972) 4min Grade IV

Oh, and by the way...make sure you pronounce it Rafe, not Ralph. It'll help you sound like a learned band nerd!

While it is not an in-depth scholarly article I hope it is of use. If you have suggestions for composers/conductors you'd like to see, or information you think it relevant feel free to comment or send me an email, I'm always ready to talk about the art of wind band.

1 comment:

Brad Howard said...

Certainly one of my favorites. Took the opportunity to perform English Folk Song Suite, Sea Songs, Toccata Marziale, and Rhosymedre with my groups in Oregon. Toccata Marziale is tops on my list, though.