Sunday, April 04, 2010

I want the idea to be universal

I want the idea to be universal and to apply to anybody who aims at the spiritual life whether he is a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Shintoist or Fifth Day Adventist.
That is the editor of the English Hymnal, composer of that great hymn tune Down Ampney ('Come Down, O Love Divine') and bodhisattva Ralph Vaughan Williams speaking. He is explaining why in the libretto of his opera The Pilgrim's Progress he changed the name of the central character in John Bunyan's allegory from Christian to Pilgrim. Given that the work was composed between 1944 and 1949 his diminution of the Seventh Day Adventists and omission of Muslims and Hindus is understandable.

Sir Adrian Boult's 1971 recording of The Pilgrim's Progress should be in every CD collection. The cast that includes John Noble as the Pilgrim, Wynford Evans (who sings the role of Pliable!), John Carol Case, Sheila Armstrong, Ian Partridge, Robert Lloyd, Norma Burrowes, and Alfreda Hodgson and they are captured in vivid pre-digital Kingsway Hall sound by one of the great production partnerships of classical music, Christopher Bishop and Christopher Parker. At EMI's current fire-sale price of £7.98 on Amazon it is unmissable and an invaluable bonus on the CD transfer is a rehearsal sequence from the Kingsway Hall sessions.

Ralph Vaughan Williams lived in Dorking, Surrey for much of his life and The Pilgrim's Progress was composed in The White House off Wescott Road, now demolished. My header photo shows the statue of him outside the Dorking Halls where he presented his annual Leith Hill Festival including a Matthew Passion complete with piano and organ continuo. Below is a graphic illustration of global warming (warning?) in the hills around Dorking. The town is on the same latitude as Eindhoven in Holland and the hills to the north of the town are now covered by the vines of Denbies vine estate, Englands largest vineyard.


Talking of wine, here is another bottle of third-pressing Mahler.

All photos are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010. The Pilgrim's Progress CD was bought at retail. 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

3 comments:

Frank H Little said...

> The Pilgrim's Progress was
>composed in The White House off
>Wescott Road
Apart from one interpolated number, as they say in the musical theatre business, which, if I recall correctly, RVW boasted of having composed on the train up to London.

The recording is certainly worth acquiring at that price. I have the LPs, which I must get around to transcribing to CD or SD card.

Pliable said...

'Asked for an intermezzo to cover a scene change during the Covent Garden rehearsals, he composed some of it in the train between London and his home station of Dorking in Surrey'.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/slow-progress-for-a-music-pilgrims-opera/2008/03/26/1206207200262.html

Given the decline of train services in England one can only think that if RVW was alive today not only would he have been able to compose the entire opera on one journey from Dorking to London, but probably all nine symphonies as well.

My photos of Dorking were taken a few weeks ago. We tried to travel from Norwich to Dorking and back by public transport but gave up as it was going to cost a fortune and take for ever. So we drove - sorry ozone layer.

Pliable said...

Which raises an interesting question. Can you tell the state of a nation by the quality of its train services - as well as its bookshops? (http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/07/bookshops-and-state-of-nation.html)

Today, in 2007, a high-speed train begins its trip between Paris and Lyon - lasting a little less than two hours - almost every thirty minutes, and nobody finds that remarkable. The one daily Amtrak service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a comparable distance between comparable population concentrations, takes almost a full day, and plans for a high-speed line are no more than doodles on the drawing board - from In Europe by Geerd Mak

There are lots of links between trains and classical music -
http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/02/short-ride-in-fast-machine.html