Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Donald Francis Tovey

Letter No.: 
Dec 10 [1938]

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

My Dear Donald F

Thursday night was electrifying – even if we’d had 6 rehearsals together it wd have been very good – as it was it was miraculous.1
Roy Henderson called it the best performance he had ever heard - & he has heard a good many.
Both your chorus & orchestra are so musical  - & I know to whom they owe that.
I also enjoyed their Mozart – it sounded authoritative.2
It was very nice having those few moments with you & as usual learning something.
By the way the general was alive all evening & didn’t miss one lead.3
Everyone was so kind & friendly – I had a wonderful time. I do hope you will be up & about again soon


1.  Tovey was to conduct the Reid Symphony Orchestra and Choir in the Usher Hall on 8th December in a concert including A Sea Symphony, CW 109/3. In the event he was unable to do so and VW went to Edinburgh to conduct the symphony (see RVW p.224, where part of this letter is printed). VW had only one rehearsal (with an incomplete choir) before the performance. The soloists were Isobel Baillie and Roy Henderson. See Mary Grierson, Donald  Francis Tovey: a biography based on letters, Oxford 1952, pp.318-319 where the first part of this letter is printed and RVW p.224, where Grierson’s extract is reprinted).
2.  The first part of the concert, conducted by Mary Grierson, Tovey’s assistant, had been entirely of Mozart: the overture and first scene of The Marriage of Figaro, Symphony no.40 and the overture to Der Schauspieldirektor.
3.  A humorous reference to General Reid, the 18th-century benefactor of music at Edinburgh University (Tovey was the Reid Professor of Music).

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