Abilene Philharmonic Playbill: April 7, 1990 Page: 9
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new and peculiar in folk music.... There are strange songs for more than one
voice to which the people have given unusual harmonies. On my wanderings
through the country I heard them in regions so far unexplored. I have no words
to describe them."
Taras Bulba, a symphonic rhapsody composed in 1918, was inspired by Gogol's
novel about the 15th century strife between the Poles and Ukrainian Cossacks.
Its three sections represent three episodes from the story: "The Death of Andrei",
"The Death of Ostap", and "The Prophecy and the Death of Taras Bulba". The
premier performance was given in 1928 in Leipzig.
A LONDON SYMPHONY Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
(Symphony No. 2)
The son of a minister, Ralph Vaughan Williams was educated at Cambridge Uni-
versity and the Royal College of Music. Although his primary interest was com-
position, he studied organ and piano as necessary preparation for his chosen
vocation. Aside from his compositions, he is largely responsible for the 20th
century renewal of interest in English folksongs and hymns. In 1906 he served as
an editor and contributor to a new edition of The English Hymnal. He was an
early member of the Folk-Song Society. While his melodies cannot be identified
as specific folksongs, the modal character of traditional English melody proved
to be a strong influence on his compositions. In his 1934 book National Music
he wrote: "The knowledge of our folksongs did not so much discover for us
something new, but uncovered for us something which had been hidden by
foreign matter." He summed up his philosophy further in the same volume:
"Music is above all things the art of the common man... Music is above all others
the art of the humble... The art of music above all other art is the expression of
the soul of a nation."
A London Symphony received its first performance on March 27, 1914 at a con-
cert given to encourage native composers' efforts. The audience was a small one
made up of close and sympathetic associates who approved of the work, but it
was not until a performance conducted by Sir Adrian Boult in 1918 that the sym-
phony was heard by a wider audience. The composer made extensive revisions
to the work in 1920 when it was presented as the chief native English work at the
first congress of the newly formed British Music Society. Whether or not he had a
program in mind with the symphony, a number of references to London sounds
are heard: Westminister chimes, the cries of street vendors, jingling bells of a
horse-drawn carriage, and the sounds of street music. A quotation from an article
in the Royal College of Music Magazine gives good reason to consider the work
to be programmatic. In it Vaughan Williams said: "Have not we all about us
forms of musical expression which we can take and purify and raise to the level
of great art? For instance, the lilt of the chorus at a music-hall joining in a popular
song, the children dancing to a barrel organ, the rousing fervour of a Salvation
Army hymn, St. Paul's and a great choir singing in one of its festivals, the Wel-
shmen striking up one of their own hymns whenever they win a goal at an
international football match, the cries of the street pedlars, the factory girls singing
their sentimental songs. Have all these nothing to say to us?"
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Abilene Philharmonic. Abilene Philharmonic Playbill: April 7, 1990, pamphlet, April 1990; Abilene, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth623256/m1/11/: accessed May 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Abilene Philharmonic.