“The Lark Ascending”: Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Romance

The Lark Ascending, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ethereal Romance for violin and orchestra, was written in 1914 on the eve of the First World War. But unlike the composer’s Pastoral Symphonycompleted seven years later, this music seems light years away from the alienation and shell shock of the battlefield.

Inspired by a poem by the English Victorian poet and novelist George Meredith, The Lark Ascending inhabits a hazy, serene dreamscape. The final, ephemeral tones of its concluding violin cadenza fade into thin air. Built on the pentatonic scale, a five-note ordering which evades traditional harmonic “pull” and “resolution,” this is music which floats in a divine and eternal “present” and alters our sense of time. It’s music rooted in English folksong and the comforting pastoral tranquility of the English countryside. Under the surface lies a quiet, lamenting nostalgia.

Here is the classic 1967 recording with violinist Hugh Bean and Sir Adrian Boult leading the New Philharmonia Orchestra:

For an excellent recent recording, listen to this performance with violinist Lyn Fletcher and Sir Mark Elder leading the Hallé Orchestra.

Recordings

  • Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, Hugh Bean, Sir Adrian Boult, New Philharmonia Orchestra iTunes
  • Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, Lyn Fletcher, Sir Mark Elder, Hallé Orchestra iTunes

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

2 thoughts on ““The Lark Ascending”: Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Romance

  1. Thank you so much for your team efforts in finding and sharing this wonderful music with us! Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

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