Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Edwin Evans

Letter No.: 
[About June 1903]

10, Barton Street,

Dear Mr Evans1

I was born 1872
Went to Trinity College Cambridge 1892-95.
Studied R.C.M. 1890-2 and l895-6.
Berlin ‘Akademie der Kunste’ (Max Bruch) 1897.
Paris 1907-82
While at Cambridge I studied counterpoint with Charles Wood. 
I have been an organist but have got over that now.
My “most important works” are
String 4tet (1897)3
Serenade for Small orchestra (1898) (Bournemouth 1901)4
5tet for Pfte, violin, cello, clarinet and Horn (1898 performed by Mr Clinton in 1901)5
“The Garden of Proserpine” (Swinburne) for sop: solo chorus & orchestra (1899)6
Bucolic Suite for orchestra (1900) (Bournemouth 1902)7
Heroic Elegy & Triumphal Epilogue for orch: (1901-2)8
Symphonic Rhapsody (after a poem by Christina Rossetti) (1901-3)9
Fantasia for Pfte and orchestra (1896-1901)10
“Willow wood” for Baritone and orchestra (1902-3) (done with Pfte at Broadwood Concert 1903)11
“The Solent” Orchestral impression (1902-3)12
I am sending you another song - in case you care to look at it - I have an idea that it is more “modern” (in the narrow conventional sense) than some of my other stuff.13  But I am no judge of this because music which to me seems thoroughly old-fashioned (e.g. some of Strauss) I am told is the “ne plus ultra of modernity” - and other music which seems to me to be at the heart of the real spirit of the age (some of Brahms for instance) I am told is old-fashioned - so I am, apparently, no judge.
Are you going to include a composer Gustav von Holst in your list.  He is to my mind a very fine composer and he is English in spite of his name - he has written a lot of orchestral music and two “musick-dramas”.  His address is
Gustav von Holst
162 Shepherds Bush Road
Yours very truly

R. Vaughan Williams

1.  Edwin Evans published an article on VW in the Musical Standard on 25th July 1903 - see Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.55 ff.  This letter was written to provide him with necessary information.
2.  An extraneous annotation in another hand, perhaps made by Evans himself a few years later.
3.  Catalogue of Works,1897/2 - Kennedy suggests it was composed in winter 1898 despite including it in the list for 1897, the date confirmed by VW’s statement.  The Catalogue of Works was published before this letter had come to light.
4.  Catalogue of Works 1898/1.
5.  Catalogue of Works 1898/2. The concert was promoted by George A. Clinton.
6.  Catalogue of Works 1899/1
7.  Catalogue of Works 1900/1
8.  Catalogue of Works 1900-1/1
9.  Catalogue of Works 1904/1
10.  Catalogue of Works 1902/1
11.  Catalogue of Works 1903/3
12.  Catalogue of Works 1903/12.II
13.  Almost certainly ‘Tears, Idle Tears’, Catalogue of Works 1903/1, since Evans refers to this in his article and notes its ‘leanings towards modernity’ - see Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.56.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/2, ff.122-124
General notes: 

Michael Kennedy wrote to Ursula Vaughan Williams about this letter on 22 February [after 1964] (MS Mus. 1714/1/2, f.121) as follows:
‘I’ve copied this.  A pity we didn’t have it, for the sake of the Brahms and Strauss references! The dated list is also useful - I guessed most of them right but it enables us to date “Proserpine” exactly and shows that he revised the Heroic Elegy in 1902, since it was played in March 1901.  Most important it shows that “Willow Wood” was always intended as an orchestral accompaniment.  I think whoever sold this letter really ought to have let us have it first. Anyway I have made the necessary amendments.  I think you ought to know, in case a bus ever knocks me down, that my proof copy of my book contains all emendations (authorised and documented) necessary for a second edition whenever it is needed - even 50 years hence.  On the fly-leaf is a list of the pages on which the alterations occur.’

Cobbe 31; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.56
Original database number: