Letter from Hubert Foss to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
6th October, 1952

My dear Ralph

I hope you won’t mind me writing quite frankly and at some length about the extraordinarily vivid experience of last Thursday morning when we heard the run-through of your masque, The Bridal Day. The following points struck me. Personally, I am much less concerned at the moment with the possible performance at Hampton Court Palace than I am with one on television. For Hampton Court, colour and tableaux and slow-moving pageantry will be admirable, and the more the merrier. In my view, the television version should be shorter, less static, with more dancing, processional movements restricted, and less numbers in the cast. Quite a small body of people looks a crowd on a well produced television screen. Personally I think that The Bridal Day is almost ideal for television even without colour, but I am convinced that there must be two versions, and I would like to suggest that for the moment you yourself think rather of Hampton Court, and allow me to do any adapting, or at least the suggesting of adaptations, with a view to television.
Musically I find the work absolutely charming, delightful to listen to, admirably formed for the stage, vivid, swift in mood, and beautifully shaped. I don’t think that the little touches which reminded you and me of other pieces of your own matter in the very least, in fact they are in keeping, and after all, The Bridal Day is a stage work and not a symphony. As for the question of instrumentation, my view is that the intimacy of the work is essential to its success and must be kept, for you have managed to allow the spectacle and the subject of the music to have their natural grandeur, which to some extent depends on simplicity. Your point about grandiose effects is of course absolutely right. Even so, I feel that possibly ad lib. parts for clarinet and oboe, and anything else you like, even if they hadn’t very much to do, might be worth writing, and would certainly help in television.
As for the stage side, as Kenneth Wright remarked, Ursula’s idea of differentiating the classes by means of stuffs is an excellent one both for the stage and television, but we mustn’t forget in planning action that on a TV screen simple, obvious and direct movements of a specific kind are effective and indeed necessary - for instance the hand-caress of bride and bridegroom would be important, and it would be good to have characters with something to hold or some emblem or garment to put on or some such visual object.
I am taking the liberty of sending a copy of this to Kenneth Wright, and hold myself at your disposal for any help I might be able to give.1

[Hubert Foss]

1. For VW's reply see VWL2481.

Location of original letter:

Location of copy:

General notes: 

File copy; typewritten.

Original database number: