Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Adrian Boult

Letter No.: 
VWL1093
[?22 October] 1936

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,
Dorking.

Dear Adrian

There seem to be two essentials of great conducting
(1) Faithfulness to the composer
(2) The power of the conductor to express himself to the full at the moment - to feel himself in the music & the music in himself
I always know I shall get (1) from you but sometimes without (2)
Thank heaven I have never heard from you (II)1 without (I) - & I know I never shall.
Yesterday we had (1) + (2) - result a great performance & great conducting for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart - and your singers & players too - the chorus were superb - their surety, their words their tone, their phrasing.
The orchestra I knew wd be magnificent - even our friend the 1st oboe, who seemed to have swallowed a dose of vinegar before the Mozart had evidently corrected it with something more delectable during the interval - You have made me like the old work again & the awkward places seemed to have dissappeared2 by magic.
Things that stick out particularly in my memory are the end of the slow movement the scherzo & the beginning and end of the “explorers” - though it was really all “high lights” - Just to show this is not just undiscriminating praise I was occasionally dissappointed3 in the soloists (partly owing I think to my position) - but the duet in No IV was wonderful even the tiresome man in front of me who was getting bored and fidgetty - hushed down to attention during that
Thank you again 1000 times4
Yrs RVW

D.M.  I think you may like to see this before you meet the Chorus.  G M Beckett 23.10.365


1. sic.
2. sic.
3. sic.
4. R.V.W.: a biography does not note this performance of A Sea Symphony.
5. Note addressed from Adrian Boult’s secretary, Gwen Beckett.  [not with British Library ms]

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add. MS 72624, ff.177-179

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/9, ff.146-149
General notes: 

The original in the BL lacks p.1 (i.e. down to ‘without (I) and I know …’) which is supplied from a photocopy formerly in UVW’s possession, now at British Library MS Mus. 1714/1/9 f. 146.
Date from secretary’s note, on the original p.1.

Format: 
Letter
Citation: 
Cobbe 273; Moore, Music and Friends, pp.121-122
Original database number: 
361022