Letter from Steuart Wilson to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
Ap.2nd 1934

From Steuart Wilson,
23, Chepstow Villas,

My dear Ralph,

I didn’t have time to discuss with you how marvellous the choirs were in Gerontius.1  I think it was the best possible of Ruskin’s dictum that music ought to be the art of saying what you feel deeply in the strongest and clearest way.  I so often hear a ‘bigger’ performance in quantitative standards, but never a more feeling one in qualitative standards.  It was a marvel of freshness of appreciation too.  It’s easy for us war-horses to key ourselves up with technical means to reproduce our first enthusiasms, but chorus singers haven’t got these means, so when you hear something you know that it means that they are feeling it at that moment.
The worst of these high water marks is that one doesn’t know what to do next.  I think we shall have to get the Huguenots ready.2  I’ve got a wild idea that Liszt’s Christus probably contains some marvellous “excerptible” matter.  Has any one ever ventured on it in your life-time?  I feel sure they never have in mine!  We’ll renovate Meyerbeer anyway.
Ever  y


1. If the date is correct, Wilson is referring to a rehearsal rather than the performance at the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking, which was not until 20th April.
2. It is not clear which company were going to ‘get the Huguenots ready’. A choral society rather than an opera company, since Christus is not an opera. VW was fond of Meyerbeer’s music and noted in 1954, in a letter to Herbert Byard, that the great gong specially made for the first production of Les Huguenots in Paris had weighed 6 tons (see VWL1232). Technically speaking, Christus had indeed been ventured upon in VW’s lifetime since the first performance took place in 1873.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/8, f.173
General notes: 

Mostly printed in R.V.W.: a biography,  p.198-199.

R.V.W.: a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, p.198-199.
Original database number: