Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Editor of The Times

Letter No.: 
June 26 [1938]

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


Your unfavourable notice of a choral work by Willy Burkhard1 performed at a contemporary music concert at Queen’s Hall last Friday2 prompts me to venture to express my opinion that we have here a remarkable, often beautiful and often deeply moving composition. It seemed to me that evening to stand out amid a waste of arid note-spinning as a genuine and deeply felt expression.
I ought perhaps to add that in case my opinion should cause the composer to lose face among his fellow “contemporary” musicians that he is fully as capable of inventing lacerating discords as any of them. But these discords seemed to me to come from a genuinely emotional impulse and not from the desire to outshine one’s neighbours in hideosity.
I hope that one of our choral festivals will perform this work, having previously revised the present English translation.
Yours faithfully

R. Vaughan Williams

1. The work was Burkhard’s oratorio Das Gesicht Jesajas, op.41, completed in 1935.
2. 24th June.

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/11, f.69
General notes: 

The letter was printed in The Times newspaper; the cutting from the newspaper is at British Library MS Mus. 1714/1/11, f.69.

Cobbe 294
Original database number: