Letter from Arnold Barter to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 

9, Hurle Crescent,
Clifton, Bristol

Dear Vaughan Williams

This is a kind of grace after music for the Symphony in D major1. We did it on March 29th to our great and lasting comfort. In the first three movements the work seems to embody the very core of what you have been saying to us in earlier days, but in a kind of sublimated form, so that one feels that a single note more, or less, would spoil the whole thing. But towards the end of the last movement something supernatural seems to creep in - set going perhaps by thoughts of Athelstan Riley's hymn2 - and the work finishes in another world. Judging from the prevailing atmosphere and the way in which the work was received I venture to hope that some of your thoughts were conveyed to the audience but how I wished that the concert performance was the final Rehearsal and that the concert was to be on the following day!
Some of the orchestra had played the work more than once before. This was a great  help. The Scherzo got well on its legs though I was not sorry when it was safely over!
We did Dyson's Nebuchadnezzar at the same Concert.
I hope you are keeping well and that ere long we shall have something else from your pen to try to interpret.
We can never be sufficiently grateful for all your help and interest in the Society.
Yours very sincerely

Arnold Barter

1.  Symphony no.5.
2.  ‘Ye Watchers and ye Holy ones’. Riley had been an editor of The English Hymnal.

General notes: 

See R.V.W.: a biography, pp 95-96. Barter ran an amateur choir and orchestra (The Bristol Philharmonic) in Bristol which had given the third performance of A Sea Symphony in 1911.

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