Mellon Scholars Program: Ralph Vaughan Williams and the English Musical Renaissance: A London Symphony, “Who Wants the English Composer?”, and a New English Music
Dr. Julia Randel, Hope College
Dr. Anne Heath, Hope College
Dr. William Pannapacker, Hope College
Nationalistic music was especially prominent in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an English composer of this era who featured nationalism not only in his compositions but also in his essays and lectures. One of Vaughan Williams’s earliest essays discusses nationalism in music, “Who Wants the English Composer?” (1912). My research investigates the extent to which nationalism appears in a work composed during the same time, A London Symphony. A study of the first movement demonstrates that Vaughan Williams integrated many of his ideas about nationalism into that symphony. In addition, the first movement points to Vaughan Williams as a composer who was able to create music that had a recognizably English sound, yet was clearly of the twentieth century, demonstrating the complexity of his understanding of the relationship between music and national identity in the era before the first world war.
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