Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The composer and the community

'The Composer must not shut himself up and think about art, he must live with his fellows and make his art an expression of the whole community - if we seek art we shall not find it' ~ Ralph Vaughan Williams, Royal College Music Magazine 1912







'It is better to be vitally parochial than to be an emasculate cosmopolitan. The great names in music were at first local and the greatest of all, Johann Sebastian Bach, remained a local musician all his life' ~ Ralph Vaughan Williams, Abinger Chronicle, 1939.
As his anniversary year draws to a close my photos show Ralph Vaughan Williams in his local community of Dorking, Surrey. The lower photo shows him outside St. Martin's Church, Dorking with Isadore Schwiller and Gerald Finzi. Schwiller led the Leith Hill Orchestra for many years, and his eponymous quartet gave the first performance of RVW's String Quartet No. 1 in 1908, and played in the 1949 private performance in Dorking of the Fantasia on the 'Old 104th' before the first public performance of the work at the 1950 Three Choirs Festival.

My memories of Dorking and a forgotten maestro here.
Photo credits, The Local History Group of the Dorking & Leith Hill Preservation Society. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Oliver said...

"It is better to be vitally parochial than to be an emasculate cosmopolitan. The great names in music were at first local and the greatest of all, Johann Sebastian Bach, remained a local musician all his life."

Surely this is complete drivel? How does it begin to be true of Mozart (a rootless cosmopolitan throughout his childhood) for example? Or Liszt? Or Schuetz (naughty man spending all those years in Venice)? You could hardly argue that's its more desirable to be virile than emasculate, but being cosmopolitan has nothing to do with a composer's propensity to either condition.

And the date - 1939 - of those comments is rather alarming; the idea that being rooted in a community automatically confers a virtue on the artist which is denied to rootless cosmopolitans is a commonplace of nationalist, not to say racist, rhetoric.

I'd have thought RVW's admirers should be ashamed that he said anything this stupid, rather than the reverse.

Pliable said...

'Nationalist, not to say racist, rhetoric'.

Now that's one view of the Leith Hill Festival that I haven't heard before.