Letter from John Barbirolli to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
Friday 17/II/56

Grand Hotel

My dear Ralph,

I have been wanting to write ever since we spent that wonderful day with No 8, but we have had a continuous run of concerts & travelling since then, which I have unfortunately had to face with a severe bronchial chill and to cap it all, “lumbago” for the last 3 days.1 So every spare moment I have had to try & rest a little.  Last Tuesday was rather a “black” day, when lo, your adorable inimitable letter arrived, & I was enabled to set forth again in renewed strength.  Ralph, I feel rather shy in the face of all the honour you have done me, & my lack of words must measure the depth of my gratitude for the Symphony, the M.S. & your faith & confidence.2 We have had quite a V-W. week, since the 7th.  Two performances (Bradford and Wolverhampton) of “Wenlock Edge” (Richard Lewis) & Tallis last night (Leicester).
“Wenlock” sounded magical I think with orch’: (the texture is most lovely and appropriate & never too thick if properly played).  Richard3 sang most beautifully & it had the greatest success.  Parts were full of wrong notes but all is correct now I hope.4 We do it again in Manchester April, & wld like to record it if you consent.  No 8 is I am sure going to be a great success & we are all working for May 2 & 3. Hanley, Newcastle & London follow immediately.
Best love to you both.


P.S.  Must congratulate Roy5 and O.U.P. on the extraordinary accuracy of the Parts of No 8.

1. Barbirolli had devoted a day in early February to running through the Eighth Symphony, Catalogue ofWorks 1955/3, to try it out - the first public performance was not until 2nd May.
2. VW had presented the autograph score to Barbirolli with a dedication to ‘Glorious John’ - it is now in the British Library.
3. Richard Lewis, the tenor.
4. The orchestral version of On Wenlock Edge, Catalogue of Works 1909/1, prepared in the early 1920s, was not widely performed and was only published in 1995. The original is for voice and piano quintet.
5. Roy Douglas, who prepared the score and parts for performance.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/22
Cobbe 670
Original database number: