Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Harriet Cohen

Letter No.: 
[September 1933]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dearest Harriet

I'm so sorry about all this - my unhappy concerto seems born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. - As far as I am concerned my compositions are done when I hear the first performance & I leave the rest to others (you among others!) - very selfish of me I know, but I must have peace to think of the next piece.
I've heard you play it and it was lovely (the performance I mean) - and I want to hear you play it again - As to the rest I have put it in the hands of my publisher & cannot play fast & loose with it.  I am sorry Foss wrote to you like that, it was very rude of him but he has control & must settle what is best to do with the work - & the whole thing seems a storm in a tea cup as evidently Scherchen could not have done it any way as he only has a chamber orchestra - so all this searching of heart need never have happened. 
I sometimes feel inclined to tear up all my music & have nothing to do with public performance, its all dead sea fruit.1
I've just been listening to you - you played beautifully.2
Love from


1. Which turns to ashes in the mouth. VW used this phrase elsewhere, e.g. in his talk on Sibelius in Music Magazine on the Third Programme.
2. Hermann Scherchen eventually conducted the concerto in Strasburg where Bartók heard it. See Michael Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams p.237, where this letter is printed.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1648, ff. 37-40
General notes: 

This letter connects with VWL1075 and could therefore be September or October.

Kennedy, Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams, p.237
Original database number: