The twentieth century brought a revival of the English art song, which had fallen fallow after the death of Henry Purcell in 1695. (William M. Adams) Central to this revival was Ralph Vaughan Williams, a composer who drew inspiration frequently from England’s distant musical past.
First published in the magazine, The Vocalist, in 1902, Whither Must I Wander? became part of Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel. The cycle of nine songs, originally written for baritone voice, is drawn from the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. The text of Whither Must I Wander? is a bittersweet reflection on the inexorable passage of time. As described in the poem’s final stanza, even the renewal of Spring cannot restore the comfort and security of childhood. Flowing and dignified, Vaughan Williams’ strophic song begins with a brief piano introduction which seems to cry out in anguish and lament. The warm memories of the song provide a refuge, yet the icy final chord returns to melancholy.
This recording features the Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau:
- Vaughan Williams: Whither Must I Wander? (Songs of Travel), Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau Amazon
Featured Image: “A View of Loch Lomond,” Horatio McCulloch