Thursday, 13 June 2013

13. Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia

Ralph Vaughan Williams

I have know and loved the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis for years now. It is an incredible piece of music which is sadly not often played in concerts. You'd therefore be forgiven for not knowing the work yet. In this post I feature an unsurpassable recording of this piece.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and songs. Thomas Tallis (1505–1585) wrote nine psalm chant tunes for four voices for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, published in 1567. One of the nine tunes, "Why fum'th in fight", inspired Vaughan Williams to compose the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (Tallis Fantasia) in 1910. The single movement piece is composed for an unusual yet highly effective combination of full string orchestra, small string ensemble and string quartet.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia John Barbirolli Sinfonia of London

Call me old fashioned, but my favourite recording of this work is an old classic performed by the Sinfonia of London and the Allegri String Quartet conducted by the famous Sir John Barbirolli. This recording from London's Temple Church was taken in 1962. The remastered sound is exquisite and the playing is sensitive and expressive. The sound is so good and vividly captures the acoustic of the church. You can literally hear the musicians breathing with the music and the sounds resonating in the space. This is gut wrenching, soulful music that is so beautiful that words don't do it justice. Go ahead and take a listen (links to the recording below).

Below is a performance on youTube from the Royal Albert Hall on 31 July 2012 played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Tadaaki Otaka.

Links to the recording (track 7):
 Amazon

Elgar: Introduction and Allegro, Serenade, Elegy, Sospiri - Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, Fantasia on Greensleeves - Sir John Barbirolli USA Store
Great Recordings of the Century - Elgar & Vaughan Williams - New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sinfonia of London & Sir John Barbirolli UK Store
Great Recordings of the Century - Elgar & Vaughan Williams - New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sinfonia of London & Sir John Barbirolli Germany Store
Great Recordings of the Century - Elgar & Vaughan Williams - New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sinfonia of London & Sir John Barbirolli Netherlands Store


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