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The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to the British neo-Romantic tradition, from 1880 to the present day.

While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden tradition to light.

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 WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?

  Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration   from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.   Characteristic themes in their work include a   mystical approach to the British landscape...

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  This is the online   Encyclopedia-BNR,   version 0.5 beta.

  Contact the editor.
INDEX OF ENTRIES:

1880-1920:


  Fiction:

George Macdonald.
Lewis Carroll.
John Ruskin.
Christina Rosetti.
Rudyard Kipling.
William Morris.
Richard Jefferies.
Edward Carpenter.
Kenneth Grahame.
Arthur Machen.
Algernon Blackwood.
'Saki'.

  Poetry:

G.M. Hopkins.
W.B. Yeats.
A.E. Housman
Laurence Binyon.

  Music:

Gustav Holst.
Vaughan Williams.
Edward Elgar.
Granville Bantock.

  Painting:

Edward Burne-Jones.
Maxwell Armfield.
Mark Symons.
John Duncan.
George Henry.
  & Edward Atkinson
  Cornell.

Gerald Moira.
Robert Bateman.
Samuel Palmer.
Walter Crane.
Edward Robert Hughes.
Bernard Sleigh.
Eleanor Fortescue
  -Brickdale.

Nathaniel Sparks.
F.C. Robinson.
Reginald Hallward.
Laurence Housman.
James Joshua Guthrie.
Paul Nash.
Charles Mahoney.
Arthur Rackham.
Thomas Cooper Gotch.
Christopher Wood.

  Movements:

Symbolism.
Aesthetic movement.
Birmingham Group.
Neo-gothic architecture.
Pictorialism.
Fairy & ghost photos.


1920s - 'places to hide':

Ballet design.
Book illustration.
The Kibbo Kift.


1930-to-1955:


  Fiction:

John Cowper Powys.
J.R.R. Tolkien.
Mervyn Peake.
C.S. Lewis.
Daphne du Maurier.
Mary Webb.
Herbert Read.
Forrest Reid
T.H. White.
Hugh Walpole.

  Non-fiction:

Robert Graves.
Rev. Francis Kilvert.
Geoffrey Grigson.
Bill Brandt.
Roger Mayne.
John Deakin.
Nikolaus Pevsner.

  Music:

Arnold Bax.
Vaughan Williams.

  Painting:

John Piper.
John Craxton.
John Minton.
David Jones.
Graham Sutherland.
Stanley Spencer.
Eric Ravilious.
Ralph Chubb.
Charles Mahoney.
Michael Ayrton.
Thomas Monnington.

  Poetry:

Dylan Thomas.
Edwin Smith.
Ithell Colquhoun.
Francis Berry.
George Barker.
Laurence Whistler.

  Film:

Humphrey Jennings.
Powell & Pressburger.
David Lean.
Epic British film music.

 


 

 

 

 

   ENTRY: Vaughan Williams, Ralph

   Ralph Vaughan Williams, (b. October 12, 1872 d. August 26, 1958) was an influential British composer, conductor, and organist. He was a student at the Royal College of Music and Trinity College, Cambridge and served as a lieutenant in World War I. He wrote nine symphonies between 1910 and 1958 as well as numerous other works including chamber music, opera, choral music and film scores. He was also a collector of British folk music and served as president of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).

   Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, where his father, the Rev. Arthur Vaughan Williams, was rector. Following his father's death in 1875 he was taken by his mother, Margaret Susan Wedgwood (18431937), the great grand daughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, to live with her family at Leith Hill Place, the Wedgwood family home in the North Downs. He was also related to the Darwins, Charles Darwin being a great-uncle.

   He schooled at Charterhouse then attended the Royal College of Music (RCM) under Charles Villiers Stanford. There he met fellow student and lifelong friend Holst. He read history and music at Cambridge University, where his friends and contemporaries included the philosophers G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell. He then returned to the RCM and studied composition with Hubert Parry, who became a close friend. His composing developed slowly and it was not until he was aged thirty that the song "Linden Lea" became his first publication. He mixed composition with conducting, lecturing and editing other music, notably that of Henry Purcell and t he English Hymnal. He had further lessons with Max Bruch in Berlin in 1897 and later a big step forward in his orchestral style occurred when he studied in Paris with Maurice Ravel.

   In 1904 he discovered English folk songs, which were fast becoming extinct as an oral tradition owing to the increase of literacy and printed music in rural areas. He collected many himself and edited them. He also incorporated some into his music, being fascinated by the beauty of the music and its anonymous history in the working lives of ordinary people.

   In 1907 he had his first big public successes conducting the premieres of the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (at The Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral) and A Sea Symphony (Symphony No. 1), and a greater success with A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2) in 1914, conducted by Geoffrey Toye.

   Although at 40 he could easily have avoided war service or been commissioned as an officer, he enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and had a gruelling time as a stretcher bearer before being commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery. On one occasion he was too ill to stand but continued to direct his battery lying on the ground. Prolonged exposure to gunfire began a process of loss of hearing which was eventually to cause deafness in old age. In 1918 he was appointed Director of Music, First Army and this helped him adjust back into musical life.

   After the war he adopted for a while a profoundly mystical style in the Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 3) and Flos Campi, a work for viola solo, small orchestra, and wordless chorus.

   In essence, however, his is characteristically English music forming part of a certain genre alongside works by the likes of Gustav Holst, Frederick Delius, George Butterworth, William Walton and others. If that Englishness in music can be encapsulated in words at all, those words would probably be: ostensibly familiar and commonplace, yet deep and mystical as well as lyrical, melodic, melancholic, and nostalgic yet timeless. Ackroyd quotes Fuller Maitland, who noted that in Vaughan Williams's style "one is never quite sure whether one is listening to something very old or very new." Vaughan Williams's music expresses a deep regard for and fascination with folk tunes, the variations upon which can convey the listener from the down-to-earth (which VW always tried to remain in his daily life) to that which is ethereal. Simultaneously the music is patriotic of the British Isles in the subtlest form engendered by a feeling for ancient landscapes and a person's small yet not entirely insignificant place within them.

   From 1924 a new phase in his music began, characterised by lively cross-rhythms and clashing harmonies. This period in his music culminated in the Symphony No. 4 in F minor, first played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1935. Two years later Vaughan Williams made a historic recording of the work with the same orchestra, one of his very rare commercial recordings. During this period he lectured in America and England, and conducted the Bach Choir. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1935.

   His music now entered a mature lyrical phase, as in the Five Tudor Portraits; the "morality" The Pilgrim's Progress; the Serenade to Music (a setting of a scene from act five of The Merchant of Venice, for orchestra and sixteen vocal soloists and composed as a tribute to the conductor Sir Henry Wood); and the Symphony No. 5 in D, which he conducted at the Proms in 1943. As he was now 70, many people considered it a swan song, but he renewed himself again and entered yet another period of exploratory harmony and instrumentation. Before his death in 1958 he completed four more symphonies, including No. 7 Sinfonia Antartica, based on his 1948 film score for Scott of the Antarctic. He also completed a range of instrumental and choral works, including a tuba concerto, An Oxford Elegy on texts of Matthew Arnold, and the Christmas cantata Hodie.

   At his death he left an unfinished Cello Concerto, an opera Thomas the Rhymer and music for a Christmas play, The First Nowell, which was completed by his amanuensis Roy Douglas (b. 1907). He also wrote an arrangement of The Old One Hundredth Psalm Tune for the Coronation Service of Queen Elizabeth II.

   Despite his substantial involvement in church music, and the religious subject-matter of many of his works, he was described by his second wife as "an atheist - [who] later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism." It's noteworthy that in his opera The Pilgrim's Progress he changed the name of the hero from Bunyan's Christian to Pilgrim. For many church-goers, his most familiar composition may be the tune Sine Nomine for the hymn "For All the Saints".

   He died in 1958 and is buried in Westminister Abbey.

   Vaughan Williams is a central figure in British music because of his long career as teacher, lecturer and friend to so many younger composers and conductors. His writings on music remain thought-provoking, particularly his oft-repeated call for everyone to make their own music, however simple, as long as it is truly their own.

Further reading:

Peter Ackroyd. Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination (see the chapter "English Music").
Ursula Wood. RVW: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams.


~

INDEX OF ENTRIES:

1955-to-1975:

  Painting:

Leslie Hurry.
Robin Tanner.
Ceri Richards.
Michael Ayrton.


  Classical music:

Havergal Brian.
Benjamin Britten.

  Poetry:

Dylan Thomas   (reputation).
Vernon Watkins.
Ted Hughes.
Christopher Logue.
Keith Vaughan.
Ore magazine.
Eric Ratcliffe.
Edwin Morgan.
Roland Mathias.

  Fiction:

Laurie Lee.
Alan Garner.
John Gordon.

  Non-fiction:

Laurie Lee.
E.P. Thompson.
J.A. Baker.
Geoffrey Grigson.


1975-to-2000:


  Photography:

Fay Godwin.
James Ravilious.
Raymond Moore.
Andy Goldsworthy.

  Popular music:

Robert Wyatt.
Syd Barrett.
Marc Bolan.
John Foxx.
Throbbing Gristle.
Genesis P. Orridge.
The Dancing Did.
Virginia Astley.
Brian Eno.
Roger Eno.

  Classical music:

Dave Heath.

  Illustration:

Clifford Harper.

  Film:

Derek Jarman.
David Rudkin.

  Fashion:

Vivienne Westwood.

  Literature:

Angela Carter.
Ted Hughes.
Peter Ackroyd.
Heathcote Williams.
Keith Roberts.
Richard Cowper.
Robert Holdstock.
Susan Cooper.

  Poetry:

Kathleen Raine.
Roland Mathias.
Gwyn Thomas.
R.S. Thomas.
George Mackay
  Brown.

Seamus Heaney.
Pauline Stainer.

  Artists:

Graham Ovenden.
Annie Ovenden.
Ann Arnold.
Robert Lenkiewicz.
John Elwyn.
Cecil Collins.
Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Andrew Logan.
Alan Reynolds.
Norman Ackroyd.
Christopher P. Wood.
Jim Leon.

  Groups & circles:

The Ruralists.
Temenos magazine.
Resurgence magazine.
Crop Circles, makers.
English Underground.


2000 - to the present:

Andrew Logan.
Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Vivienne Westwood.
Andy Goldsworthy.
Christopher Bucklow.
Peter Ackroyd.
Pauline Stainer.
Brian Eno.
Roger Eno.
Jon Aldersea.
Christopher P. Wood.
Made in Staffordshire, England.   2007. Last updated: 18th Jan 2007. Site search by PicoSearch.
Some of the initial E-BNR text was sourced or partly derived from Wikipedia, used here under the GNU licence.