<< -- 2 -- Roderic Dunnett WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH
'Even though it calls for three flutes, two oboes, clarinets and bassoons,
and a lot of brass,' says Martin Lee-Browne, 'Much of it is pianissimo;
indeed there's hardly a fortissimo in the whole song. It's quite
thinly scored -- it sounds almost Eastern. And it ends with a violin solo
that fades into the stratosphere in a rising whole tone scale, like some
kind of oriental Lark Ascending.'
'I think Vaughan Williams may well have been influenced by the character
and ideas of Cyril Scott, who was one of, possibly the dominant and most
compelling member of, the Leipzig group. Specifically, its sound world strikes
me as very similar to parts of Scott's Piano Quartet of l904-5.'
Two of the other songs are for baritone; Nos 2 (the choral one) and 3
also have an arrangement for string quintet -- shades of On Wenlock Edge.
Although No 1 survives as a version for baritone and piano, there is actually
an indication 'orchestra' in the MS.
'The solo part of "Whispers of heavenly death" ', explains
Martin Lee-Browne, 'is written in the treble clef, but quite low. It ranges
from a low B flat to high E flat, from which you could infer anything :
certainly it would suit a baritone, or indeed a mezzo-soprano, extremely
The music, as Martin Lee-Browne mentioned, feels as different as one
could imagine from the style of the mature Vaughan Williams -- although it
possibly points ahead to his impending, or emerging, infatuation with Ravel,
which came to a height later that year and yielded, notably, On Wenlock
Copyright © 1 November 2001
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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