Need a piano teacher who visits your home? I give lessons in locations in N8 such as Hornsey, Crouch End, Stroud Green and Turnpike Lane. I also venture further to Finsbury Park (N4) and Muswell Hill (N10).
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Vaughan Williams - a "modal" for English revival?
English music underwent a revival at the turn of the century and one of the major figures involved in this revival was the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). Vaughan Williams's career spanned over six decades and he is remembered, among other things, for successfully reviving English music by drawing on the influences of the English folk song and the polyphony of the Tudor times. Born in Gloucestershire, his mother was the niece of Charles Darwin, and his father died when he was only two. Vaughan Williams would later initiate a study and collection of English folk songs, which would later influence his own work.
Vaughan Williams's musical career started from a young age. He was a talented musician and played various instruments such as the violin, viola, piano and organ. And as if learning four instruments were not enough, he gradually became increasingly interested in composition. He enrolled at the Royal College of Music, where one of his notable contemporaries was Gustav Holst.
The influence of Italian and German Romantic opera, exemplified by the works of Verdi and Wagner, were still dominant. Vaughan Williams's early work was influenced by his dissatisfaction with the English music scene, which was reliant on the Germanic influences. He decided to draw on native resources, rather than turning to foreign influences. An important influence on his work was the English folksong, a tradition of which England had a strong heritage, even if one had to reach back across centuries, and past the more recent and popular influences of opera, lieder, and Germanic-influenced symphonies.
Vaughan Williams's first big public success came in 1910 at the premiere of his "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis". The work was well-received, and he followed that up with a reception of greater acclaim with A London Symphony.
While many might have sought exemption during the First World War, Vaughan Williams, seeking to do his part for his country, volunteered himself into army life. When the armistice was achieved, he was appointed director of music for the First Army of the British Expeditionary Force.
At the end of the war, Vaughan Williams returned to the Royal College of Music as a member of the teaching staff, but he showed no signs of slowing down. Later in life, the age of 70, he moved into a new genre of film music, scoring the music for Scott of the Antarctica in 1948, from which he developed his Symphonia Antartica. He died peacefully in August 1958 and his ashes were placed by the grave of Henry Purcell in Westminster Abbey.
Vaughan Williams's musical style has been said to have a distinctively English quality. And just what is this English quality? It is one with a distinctive use of modality of the folk song, and sometimes described as "tinged with an elusive mysticism". That is one of the more positive references to Vaughan Williams's music. His music has unfortunately also been referred to as 'cowpat music’, an overarching derogatory term used to describe the English pastoral school of composers, such as Vaughan Williams, Holst, Ireland, and Bax, and how their music evokes images of cows and fields. Even Aaron Copland, himself one of the composers credited with composing music with an "American" sound, likened listening to Vaughan Williams' Symphony no 5 as "staring at a cow for 45 minutes". Music - or moosic?
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