Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony: Scream of the Apocalypse

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony begins with an apocalyptic scream. It comes in the form of three pitches (F, G, and A-flat) which rise with desperation in octaves before plunging into a hellish, rumbling inferno. The original Greek translation of the word, “symphony,” suggests the harmonization of disparate elements. Yet, this is music of destabilization, disintegration, and alienation. Punctuated by tumultuous shrieks in the strings and ferocious brass jabs, these terrifying opening …

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