Letter from Gerald Finzi to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
Jan 22nd [1953]

Nr Newbury

Dear Uncle Ralph

The Oxford performance1 was good, but having heard the Manchester broadcast, & again, last night, the Phil, it’s quite clear that the organ is missed a lot when its not there. Also the curtains & flys in the New Theatre absorbed a lot of sound, so that although one got great clarity of playing there was never a real fff with a bite to it. There was a huge audience and standing room only. As with Marie Lloyd - hundreds turned away!  The original run through with piano was fairly well fixed in my mind & whatever the alterations you made it was generally what one expected, except for the extraordinary & fantastic sounds, chiefly in W.W & “extra” departments. I loved them.
The arguments about whether its a Symphony or not are just what one expected - from Dyneley Hussey who has no doubts that it is, to the musicians who have.
I can’t help feeling very strongly that its a work apart. Great big work that it is, it’s not in the line of the Symphonies. This isn’t because of the 5 mvts, or the opulence of the score, but more on account of the episodic material. Your ‘Sinfonia’ leaves the critics and announcers open to call it “his 7th symphony”, but it seems like calling “Flos Campi” “his viola concerto”. Well perhaps you’ll produce Symphony no 7 before long, which will clear matters up. It will probably be for a Haydn-Mozart orchestra, now that everyone is expecting you to get bigger and bigger, & will have a number, just because its always presumed that you never number them!
Well, all this ought to show you how little significance there was in the fact that “The Sons of Light” wasn’t up to the best.
Congratulations & love & thanks from us both.


1. Of Sinfonia Antartica; a performance of this work in Oxford at this time has not yet been traced.
2. VW's reply to this letter is at VWL2623.

Location of copy:

Cobbe 599
Original database number: