Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gustav Holst

Letter No.: 
[About January 1933]

The White Gates
Westcott Road

Dear Gustav

For our sake you must keep well - but for the sake of music you must go on writing canons - so try and combine the two.1
I like especially Fields of Sorrow & David’s Lament - the two big ones I feel I am going to like - but can’t vizualize2 them yet.  I liked the old Trio3 - but always felt that its being in 3 keys was more seen by the eye than felt by the ear.  After all, ‘Lovely Venus’ depends a lot on the ‘natural chord’ doesn’t it?  I don’t think I like your notation.  After all, key signatures are simply a means of avoiding accidentals - isn’t that so?  And I believe that on the balance you wd get fewer accidentals by putting a christian key signature - & not, incidentally, make unhappy people like me who try to play them on the pfte permanently cross-eyed.
Let me hear them soon - we are perhaps coming to London for a week round Feb 1st.4


1. Holst had completed six of Eight canons for equal voices, H.187, in 1932 during VW's absence in the USA. A further two were added in 1933.
2. sic.
3. i.e. the Terzetto.
4. VW's Piano Concerto, Catalogue of Works 1931/3, was to be given its first performance by Harriet Cohen at the Queen's Hall on 1st February.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 158, ff.118-120
Cobbe 223; Heirs and Rebels, Letter XXXVIII
Original database number: