program notes by composition > S > Six Studies in English Folksong

Six Studies in English Folksong

Ralph Vaughan Williams/arr. by Jeremy Von Hoy
Gene Pokorny, tuba soloist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra ( November 11, 2012 )

Six Studies in English Folksong is a collection of pieces originally written for cello and piano. Each song follows the same format: presentation of the tune in the solo line, followed by a full iteration of the folk song in the ensemble with an ornamented solo line.

Adagio ('Lovely on the Water') in E modal minor
Andante sostenuto ('Spurn Point') in Eb
Larghetto ('Van Dieman's Land') in D modal minor
Lento ('She Borrowed Some of her Mother's Gold')
Andante tranquillo (‘The Lady and the Dragon') in C
Allegro vivace ('As I walked over London Bridge')

Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. In 1914 at the age of 40, Ralph (pronounced “Rayf”) Vaughan Williams enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and had a gruelling time as a stretcher bearer before being commissioned as an artillery officer. Williams wrote that his aim in setting the songs was that they be “treated with love.” Never straying from his English roots, he sought to organically weave elements of his native music into all his compositions, rather than imitate it. One of the earliest researchers in ethnomusicology, he traveled the British countryside recording and transcribing folk music directly from its source.

Williams' music has been said to be characteristically English. It expresses a deep regard for and fascination with folk tunes, the variations upon which can convey the listener from the down-to-earth to the ethereal. Simultaneously the music shows patriotism toward England in the subtlest form, engendered by a feeling for ancient landscapes and a person's small yet not entirely insignificant place within them.

Last updated on July 6, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band