Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony Number Five :: essays research papers

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony Number Five Ralph Vaughan Williams, descended from the famous Wedgwood and Darwin families, was born at Down Ampney, Gloucestershire in 1872. In 1890 he entered the Royal College of Music, and in 1892 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. One of the greatest of the British composers, a prolific writer of music, folksong collector, and champion of British cultural heritage, he died aged 85 in 1958. His ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey alongside the nation's greatest artists and poets. Symphony No. 5 in D Introduction The symphony contains a lot of material from RVW's then unfinished opera, The Pilgrim's Progress. When he began the Fifth Symphony, RVW thought he may never finish the opera, and didn't want to waste any good ideas. The symphony does not have a programme, it is absolute music. It is in four movements: a "Preludio" first movement, a Scherzo, a "Romanza" slow movement, and a "Passacaglia" finale. First Movement : Preludio From the very beginning, RVW puts the key signature of this movement into doubt. The movement opens with a horn call in D, set against a firm base (or bass?) of octave C's. Could it be that in the great traditions of British musical 'amateurism', RVW got his transposition wrong? Or is this a deliberate feature of the music, intended to blur the tonality? Musicologists prefer the latter explanation. This is by no means an unusual feature of his music, when he was asked what the 4th symphony was about, RVW replied "It is about F-minor", alluding to his sometimes hazy tonalities, often augmented by his use of modal, mainly pentatonic melodies, which, with no leading note, often help to 'fudge' the tonality. Apart from the horn call, the brass is seldom used, and the texture is light and airy. The first violins then enter, high on the E string, doubled at the octave below by the seconds in an introduction, before their main theme at (1), doubled by flutes. The triplets add rhythmic variety, as well as providing a distinctly 'folkie' feel. During the course of the movement, the distinctive dotted rhythm of the horns hardly ever leaves us. There are some rather abrupt key changes. i.e. Eb to E at (5). We are taken into the Allegro by a sudden change in mood. The music darkens with a slightly sinister version of the horn call in the bassoons. We then enter the Allegro, with a scurrying in the strings, whilst the wind begins a downward progression of notes, which builds to a climax, with strings in semiquavers, until we reach the original

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