Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Adrian Boult

Letter No.: 
[?17 November 1941]

The White Gates,

Dear Adrian

Many thanks for your letter.  We are too old and good friends to be afraid to be honest with each other & I cannot pretend that I was not rather dismayed by that performance  - As a matter of fact the 1st verse was the best - the controller tuned down the orchestra so much that it did not matter - But this was fatal on the 2nd & 3rd verses where the descant and harmonies swamped the tune - & the whole thing was sung without conviction as if they did not know it (which according to your account they did not) - Do you not think the B.B.C with all its tradition would have done better to cut it out altogether rather than give an unrehearsed performance?  I was particularly sorry because that tune is rather a ewe lamb of mine & I feel that if it got a proper send off it might hit the nail on the head - But I felt on Sunday night that it had been strangled at birth.  However several people have told me that they liked it - so perhaps I was wrong

R Vaughan Williams

P.S.  I did not listen to L.S.2 - it evoked the past too painfully “nessun maggior dolore” etc3 - But I heard the last 8 bars which sounded very beautiful - thank you all

1. Despite the date noted on the original (see below) this letter seems to refer to the first performance of England, My England (Catalogue of Works 1941/1). Northrop Moore, (Music and Friends, pp137-138), assumes it closely follows VWL1587.
2. London Symphony (Catalogue of Works 1913/5).
3. Dante, Divina Commedia ‘Inferno’ canto 5 l.121: ‘Nessun maggior dolore, | Che ricordarsi del tempo felice |  Nella miseria’ (‘There is no greater pain than to remember a happy time when one is in misery’). VW was probably thinking back to the days just before the First World War and his friendship with George Butterworth.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer
General notes: 

A date (‘? Feb 42’) has been added in a different hand but is probably wrong. See footnote 1.

Moore, Music and Friends, pp.137-138
Original database number: