Classical Sunday: Vaughan Williams’ 3rd Symphony

The video contains a number of beautiful paintings.  Someone put a good bit of work into uploading this one.


Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 3 ‘Pastoral’

Vernon Handley conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Alison Barlow, soprano.

The video contains a number of beautiful paintings.  Someone put a good bit of work into uploading this one.  Here’s what he says about it:

“Vaughan Williams composed his third symphony, ‘A Pastoral Symphony’, after he returned to England from active service as an officer in the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front. Earlier in the war, he had served as a stretcher-bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and Salonika.

‘A Pastoral Symphony’ has been described as “A distillation of English Folk-Song” and, though at one level the work can be seen as a meditation on the English countryside and on the lives of those who lived and worked within it, at a deeper level it is a response to RVW’s experiences during the war of 1914-18 and an expression of his grief and loss. It is ‘war music’ but of a very unusual kind.

To accompany this darkly serene symphony, I’ve assembled a sequence of paintings which, I hope, reflect the music’s constantly shifting mood and atmosphere. I haven’t attempted to tell a story but to suggest certain ideas and associations which, to my ears, are prompted by the music. The country scenes represent not only Britain, but France, Belgium and the (in the scherzo) the United States..

I have chosen paintings by artists from The British Isles, France, Belgium, Italy, Canada and the USA:

First movement: Works by Edmund Wilkins Waite, George Vicat Cole, Joseph Farquharson, Julien Dupre, Emil Claus, Henry Yeend King, Jules Breton and Theodore Rousseau.

Second Movement: Works by Frederick Waters Watts, Henry Yeend King, Julien Dupre, Fortunino Matania, Emil Claus and Haydn Reynolds McKay.

Third Movement: Thomas Moran, G V Cole, Albert Goodwin, Gustave Dore, John Arnesby Brown, John Fabian Carlson.

Fourth Movement: Christopher Nevinson, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Rogers, GV Cole, Emil Claus, Julien Dupre, Ugo Matania, George Edmund Butler, H. Yeend King, Paul Nash, William Orpen, Alfred Bastien.

6 comments on “Classical Sunday: Vaughan Williams’ 3rd Symphony”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. As I listened to it many thoughts went through my mind. But at the end it was the care that was taken over the dead of the war. Wilfred Owen’s bitter words, “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” came to mind first but then it was the realisation that grave by grave, war memorial by war memorial, the dead were, and still are, called to mind by the families and communities who lost them. My mother’s uncles, Thomas and John Young, lie in beautifully tended war cemeteries in France and Belgium. In fact one could argue that the dead were better cared for than the living but that is another matter.
    Vaughan Williams seems to capture the journey of England through the 20th century better than any other composer and leaves me with a sense that despite all that has been lost there is something that will be reborn that is beautiful if we keep on searching for it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for your very thoughtful comment. I quite agree; the paintings of the WWI soldiers along with the music moved me the most as well, as much as I also enjoyed the pastoral scenes and moods. Not forgetting those that went before us, and what they went through, is imperative, and the only way to immortality. And how wonderful that Vaughan Williams’ music leaves you with hope! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.