Vaughan Williams and His World

Byron Adams


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The University of Chicago Press
5 August 2023
ISBN: 9780226830452
336 pages

From the publisher

A biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, published in collaboration with the Bard Music Festival.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was one of the most innovative and creative figures in twentieth-century music, whose symphonies stand alongside those of Sibelius, Nielsen, Shostakovich, and Roussel. After his death, shifting priorities in the music world led to a period of critical neglect. What could not have been foreseen is that by the second decade of the twenty-first century, a handful of Vaughan Williams's scores would attain immense popularity worldwide. Yet the present renown of these pieces has led to misapprehension about the nature of Vaughan Williams's cultural nationalism and a distorted view of his international cultural and musical significance.

Vaughan Williams and His World traces the composer's stylistic and aesthetic development in a broadly chronological fashion, reappraising Vaughan Williams's music composed during and after the Second World War and affirming his status as an artist whose leftist political convictions pervaded his life and music. This volume reclaims Vaughan Williams's deeply held progressive ethical and democratic convictions while celebrating his achievements as a composer.