Wednesday, September 16, 2015


"People compose for many reasons: to become immortal;
  because the pianoforte happens to be   open;  because they
  want to become a millionaire; because of the praise of
  friends; because they have looked into a pair of
  beautiful eyes; for no reason whatsoever."
AUTHOR: Robert Schumann

"People create art for varied reasons.
      For everyone the reason is different."

Vincent Van Gogh: Wheat Fields and Lark
Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Janine Jansen, Violin
Birds represent freedom in flight;
in mythology and literature the skylark
more specifically denotes daybreak and
a sense of spiritual aspiration.
Samuel Palmer: The Rise of the Skylark, 1839
Lorrie Sniderman: Lark Ascending
The Lark Ascending is scored for two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two
horns, triangle, and strings. Approximate performance time is sixteen minutes.
Keith TilleySkylark in Strathmore
Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Sheet Music
This piece is both hauntingly prophetic and
serene as the music is imbued with a profound
sense of communion with nature evoking the
extraordinary image of the English countryside
in the spring and the courting flight of the skylark.
"The lark ascends in steps, while singing
continuously, hovers for a while and rises
vertically to a new point of pause and
then on up until almost lost from sight."
Elizabeth Williams: Lark Ascending
Written on the eve of WWI, a war which was to
wipe out a whole generation in the mud and
blood of the trenches,
WWI: In the Trenches
the lark sings in a landscape
already devoid of people. Beginning and ending
with the lark alone in a completely empty sky,
even the melody of the contrasting central section,
which mimics the qualities of English folk music,
seems a little unreal, as if the people exist only in
our imagination. Besides the beauty of the music there
is also a deeper sediment which is being expressed.
The formal structure of the piece is a straight-
forward ABA development, with each theme
introduced and linked by the solo intervals. Yet
within that structure, the violin solo is notable
for its fluid writing and the organic way in which
it emerges from and blends back into the
orchestral texture throughout the piece.
The orchestra begins (woodwinds and muted strings)
with a hushed, brief series of discreetly
soft chords in parallel 5ths.
Following is the unaccompanied solo line,
portraying the flight of the lark, entering with a
poetic cadenza, written without barlines in order to
give the soloist "improvisatory freedom,"
(marked pianissimo and sur la touche)
ascending to the violin's upper range in a series
of short phrases reminiscent of birdsong. The
orchestra then quietly re-enters, and the first
theme, made up of an outwardly simple melody
using just a few pentatonic pitches, takes up the
6/8 melody introduced towards the end of
the cadenza, played above the simplest
accompaniment. Occasional arabesques are
inserted which continue to recall the characteristic
abandon of the skylark song.
There is a change of character to a lyrical
theme played by the orchestra as the solo
part "chirrups" a lively decoration.
("In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake")
Lark Flying Over Landscape in Southern England
Vaughan Williams then introduces a new idea,
a stolid folk dance-like melody beginning in the
woodwinds which has been likened to the pastoral
countryside over which the lark soars;
the violin's free descant over the orchestra
certainly underscores that impression. A magical
moment ensues when solo woodwinds evoke a
panoply of birdsong under the busy rustling of the
violin; the effect is like a choir of birds led by
the virtuoso lark. A note of sadness and nostalgia
informs the reprise of the first section, and the
piece ends with one more cadenza from the
violin, a final reprise of the opening music, whose
song circles ever higher into the upper reaches
of the instrument until it more disappears
than ends, fades to nothingness, as the lark
vanishes in the misty heights, disappear-
ing into transcending silence.
As quoted from Meredith,
"Till lost on his aerial rings.
In light, and then the fancy sings."
BBC Radio 4
Broadcast 1 January 1993
Presenter: Susan Sharp
Vaughan Williams at War:
Hugh MacDonald looks at how Vaughan Williams
famously evoked the spirit of the British countryside:

The Lark Ascending is one of the supreme
achievements of English landscape musical painting.
In a single sweep of velvety pastoral writing,
Vaughan Williams extols the untroubled joys of
nature, the call of the lark, and, particularly in the
animated middle section, the genial folk music
of earlier times. Vaughan Williams prefaced
his score with these 12 lines from Victorian
writer George Meredith's
George Meredith (1828–1909)
122-line eponymous poem,
The Lark Ascending, written in 1881:
Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Accompanied by the words of George Meredith's Poem
(View from Higger Torr in Derbyshire looking towards Longshaw)


Poem by George Meredith
Read for LibriVox by Winston Tharp


Poem by George Meredith

Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Hilary Hahn, Violin

"The bucolic violin trills and florid noodlings
evoke a bird's-eye swoop over long swaths
of cornfields on a glorious English summer's morn."
Cornflowers Across a Cornfield,%20The%20Lark%20Ascending.mp3
Jules Adolphe Breton: The Song of the Lark 
The composer wrote this tone poem composition
scored for solo violin and piano in 1914,
(Performed as Originally
Heard for Violin and Piano
and Recreated at its
original 1920 Premiere Venue)
Julia Hwang, Violin
Charles Matthews, Piano
Ian Griffiths: The Lark Ascending
but the outbreak of World War I
and a piece of music about a pastoral scene
of a singing bird on the wing seemed far removed
from reality of the times that its premiere was
put on hold until December 15, 1920 when
the violinist Marie Hall,
Franz Ries
Marie Hall, Violin (1904)
the woman for whom Vaughan Williams had
written it for (as she had assisted him in the
creation of the solo part),
performed it in the Shirehampton Public Hall
The Hall received a contemporary piece of art to put on public display which has been
especially commissioned to celebrate 100 years of The Lark Ascending.
The young artists from Kingsweston School were guided in their
efforts by the professional grafitti artist, Rob Wheeler.
for a concert of the Avonmouth and Shirehampton
Choral Society accompanied by Geoffrey Mendham
at the piano.  Vaughan Williams revised the work for solo
violin and orchestra in 1920 and it premiered six months
In 1941, during the London Blitz, the Queen's Hall was
destroyed by an incendiary bomb. It was never rebuilt.
with the British Symphony Orchestra
under conductor Adrian Boult
with Hall again as the violin soloist on
June 14, 1921. A critic from The Times wrote:
"It showed serene disregard of the fashions
of today or yesterday. It dreamed itself along."
Osmund Caine: Lark Ascending
Ralph Vaughan Williams with his first
wife Adeline at Cheyne Walk in 1917
At the start of WWI, 41-year old Vaughan Williams
declared he wanted "to do his bit" for England's war
effort and sought actual physical involvement in the
escalating crisis putting a complete halt to his musical
composition pursuits until the end of the war; another
reason why The Lark Ascending had not premiered
earlier. Eventually he was sent to France
Vaughan Williams on the far left
where he served first as an ambulance orderly
then as an artillery officer
receiving commendations
on numerous occasions. At the end of
the war, he was named Music
Director of the First Army in France.
Listen out for the soaring violin melody ascends
so high into the instrument's upper register that,
at times, it is barely audible; shimmering strings,
meanwhile, provide much of the beautifully
sensitive accompaniment, evoking glorious
images of the rolling British countryside.
Midway through The Lark Ascending, Vaughan
Williams treats us to an orchestral section that
seems to borrow from his love of folk songs;
it's not long, though, before the lark returns, with
the melody entwining itself around the orchestra
and then breaking free, rising to ever loftier heights.
Although no folksong is quoted,
says the violin's
soaring line anticipates
Oliver Messiaen's
obsession with birdsong

by 30 years and encapsulates
the lyric-pastoral atmosphere
of English Georgian poetry in music.
It is so vividly pictorial that we can almost see
the lark spiralling up higher into the
sky above the lush green rolling hills.
Vaughan Williams himself described it as
"an English landscape transcribed into musical terms"
(especially the wide open hills of Vaughan
Williams' native Cotswold landscape).
Cotswold Landscape
Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Nicola Benedetti, Violin
Andrew Litton, Conductor
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Lark Ascending is notoriously difficult to play,

Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Iona Brown, Violin
Sir Neville Marriner, Conductor
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

but the best performances of it are seemingly
effortless and free with each performance
different from the next. It remains the
composer's most popular work.