Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Michael Kennedy

Letter No.: 
[16 June 1958]

From R. Vaughan Williams,
10, Hanover Terrace,
Regents Park,
London, N.W.1.

Dear Michael

When I was young the only orchestra concerts (except the Phil: which did not count) were Manns1 (Crystal Palace) and Richter with Henschel a little later – so we had no real standard of comparison.  But I felt that at all events in Wagner & Beethoven you heard not an “individual reading” – but the music itself – and that’s what mattered both for Richter & audience – I felt with him as with no other conductor that he never got between you and the composer
- It was always straight-forward with no monkey-tricks and intensely satisfying – a feeling which no other conductor has given me.
He used the old fashioned walking-stick baton for a straight-forward business-like beat
I only once remember his using any showmanship when he used to let the orchestra play the 5/4 Tschaikowsky without (manually) beating2 – of course he did a good deal of conducting in the movement with his eyelid & little finger – but the audience thought it wonderful.  I’m sorry I have so little to tell you – it’s more than 50 years ago
My love to Eslyn – it will be lovely to meet at Cheltenham


Just back from a lovely flash round the Fens – Lincoln, Tattershall, Gunby, Boston, Spalding, Crowland & Thorney ending with Peterborough Cathedral & a folk dance festival & home on the 8.30 train – we felt as if we’d had a fortnight in the country & it was just 24 hours.  It all looked lovely, & was all new to me. R is nice & brown!



1.  Sir Augustus Mann.
2.  The second movement of Symphony no.6 (Pathétique).
3.  Postscript written on the back of the envelope by UVW.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.230-232
General notes: 

Date from postmark.
This letter is printed in part in Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.391.
Michael Kennedy was at this time working on his history of the Hallé Orchestra of which Hans Richter had been the director from 1899 to 1911, and had asked VW for his memories of the conductor.

Cobbe 747; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.391.
Original database number: