Foreward from Sir Andrew Davis CBE
It has always been for me a source of pride and happiness to present music from our sceptred isle overseas, and no composer more so than Vaughan Williams.
Elgar has long had his international champions, Britten too, and Tippett, particularly in his later years, was feted in the USA. Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia is perhaps the one piece that has currency in the English speaking world; but what, for instance, of the symphonies?
I have always found the most remarkable thing about them is their diversity – the progression from the grand Sea Symphony to the visionary, otherworldly Ninth is a journey of constant surprises. The hybrid symphony/tone poem that is the Second has always met with instant recognition and appreciation wherever I have performed it, but it is the success of the Fifth, Seventh and Ninth that has given me the most satisfaction. I remember the Seventh in
Boston, and even more in Zurich, being followed by profound silence but then real enthusiasm. In what has been my home town for the last 21 years, the Chicago Symphony produced a rendition of the Ninth that was as ecstatic as any I have led, and I was particularly thrilled at both the performances and reception of the Fifth a couple of years ago in both Melbourne and especially Frankfurt; clearly we are no longer regarded as ‘das Land ohne Musik’ (the country without music)!
Why is this? I believe it to be an openness to what music can express that has broken down the dominance of continental European art, particularly that of Germany, that maintained a stranglehold on traditional concert programming for so long. Younger concert goers have proven much less hidebound.
So the evocation of the ocean, the English capital and countryside, the terror of conflict that the Fourth symphony represents, the bleak landscape of the Seventh’s finale, or the glimpse beyond our limited world in the Ninth have found a resonance that was long overdue.
To be the President of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is an honour I feel profoundly, and I hope to continue to present his music to international audiences as long as I can.
My warmest wishes to all RVW devotees.
Sir Andrew Davis CBE
President, Ralph Vaughan Williams Society
Watch Sir Andrew Davis chatting with RSNO Associate Principal Flute, Helen Brew about Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica, which the RSNO performed on the 25 and 26 February 2022.
The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is a Registered Charity No: 1156614. Registered address: North House, 198 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BE.