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Ralph Vaughan Williams - Symphony Number Five Ralph Vaughan Williams descended from the famous Wedgwood and Darwin families was born at Down Ampney Gloucestershire in 1872 In 1890 he entered the Royal College of Music and in 1892 he entered Trinity College Cambridge One of the greatest of the British composers a prolific writer of music folksong collector and champion of British cultural heritage he died aged 85 in 1958 His ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey alongside the nations greatest artists and poets Symphony No 5 in D Introduction The symphony contains a lot of material from RVWs then unfinished opera The Pilgrims Progress When he began the Fifth Symphony RVW thought he may never finish the opera and didnt want to waste any good ideas The symphony does not have a programme it is absolute music It is in four movements a Preludio first movement a Scherzo a Romanza slow movement and a Passacaglia finale First Movement Preludio From the very beginning RVW puts the key signature of this movement into doubt The movement opens with a horn call in D set against a firm base or bass of octave Cs Could it be that in the great traditions of British musical amateurism RVW got his transposition wrong Or is this a deliberate feature of the music intended to blur the tonality Musicologists prefer the latter explanation This is by no means an unusual feature of his music when he was asked what the 4th symphony was about RVW replied It is about F-minor alluding to his sometimes hazy tonalities often augmented by his use of modal mainly pentatonic melodies which with no leading note often help to fudge the tonality Apart from the horn call the brass is seldom used and the texture is light and airy The first violins then enter high on the E string doubled at the octave below by the seconds in an
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