Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gustav Holst

Letter No.: 
Friday [13 April 1934]

The White Gates
Westcott Road

Dear Gustav

After promising myself all the year that I would attend every rehearsal of the choral symph. I attended none - I stupidly went & got a little chill & temperature - nothing bad, but in view of next week & having to go to London for rehearsals twice this week, I thought I must take no risks - I was never so disgusted in my life.  The wireless behaved pretty well - funnily the scherzo came over best I thought & as far as I can make out they sang that beautifully - & it was a relief to hear the urn sung by people who had some idea what the words meant. All except that horrid Lycette woman.1
By the way, I wish you would consider taking that last phrase away from the soloist (even Dorothy2) and giving it to say 4 of the chorus (just as you have done [with] one or two of the other phrases[)].
As to the tune its self - I wholly liked the Urn for the first time.  I'm sot sure that it is the Urn - but it's you, which is all I know & all I need to know.
The scherzo is what I always thought it was, you at your best.
I am not so sure about the finale - I love the big tune - but some of it seems to be just getting through the words - I wonder if a cut of one or two of the poets would be possible or advisable?3
Jelly4 came & rehearsed the Mendelssohn concerto with my strings yesterday - we had great fun singing the wind parts as a duet.


1. Holst's A Choral Symphony had been broadcast on 11th April. It includes a setting of Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn. The soloist VW refers to was Miriam Lycette.
2. Dorothy Silk.
3. The finale is, in part, a setting of Keats’s Ode to Apollo in which stanzas are addressed successively to Homer, Maro (i.e.Virgil), Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Tasso. Holst did not omit any of them.
4. Jelly d'Aranyi, the violinist.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 158, ff.121-125
General notes: 

Printed with omissions as Letter XLI in Heirs and Rebels.

Cobbe 246; Heirs and Rebels, Letter XLI
Original database number: