Unlike the fathers of the nineteenth-century English musical renaissance, who slavishly paid homage to the German masters, composers Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and his friend Gustav Holst threw off the shackles of the Teutonic school and drew their inspiration from the neglected tradition of folk-song. The result was the creation of a distinctly English musical voice that evoked the cultural heritage of a nation. In particular, the sheer beauty, vitality, and aesthetic force of Vaughan Williams' works, which include The Lark Ascending, Greensleeves, the Tallis Fantasia, and nine symphonies, connected listeners to a timeless past and gave them a common national spirit, especially during turbulent, war-torn times. Here, Simon Heffer charts the course of Williams' remarkable life and career. Heffer traces Williams' privileged upbringing, his years of painstaking studies with Hubert Parry, Max Bruch, and Maurice Ravel, his promotion of folk-song and editorship of the English Hymnal, his close association with Holst and George Butterworth, and his emergence as the leader of English musical life. Williams was a genius of musical invention who is still beloved and admired in Britain and around the world.
Simon Heffer is a political columnist for the Daily Mail. He is the author of Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle; Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII; Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell; and Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England. He lives in Chelmsford, England.