Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust

Letter No.: 
15 December 1920

Opinion, as member of assessment panel for the Trust’s ‘Scheme for the publication of musical compositions’, on Chamber Rhapsody no.2 by Arthur Bliss

This piece seems to me to have a rare and classical sense of beauty - and indicates a healthy departure from the rather heavy romanticism of much that has been sent in.  It breaks fresh ground and as such it ought to be encouraged.
I know it has weak points - a certain squareness & a tendency to shut the music into water-tight compartments 2 bars long.  But it has certainly great beauty of theme, harmony & colour.
As to the voices, I also do not like voices without words - but I think this is a prejudice - there is no doubt about the exquisite beauty of the combination of voices & instruments (I have heard the work)
A in my opinion.1

1.  The other members of the panel were Henry Hadow and Dan Godfrey.  Hadow disapproved of the wordless voices and felt the work didn’t have much substance and awarded a C though was prepared to consider a B.  Godfey agreed with Hadow about wordless voices but felt that the composer would ‘certainly come to the front’ and that the work should be considered.  The eventual verdict was positive and the work was published in the Carnegie Collection of British Music as Rhapsody for flute, cor anglais, string quartet, bass and two voices -soprano and tenor by Stainer & Bell in 1921.  VW’s views about wordless voices changed - as is evident from the wordless soprano solo in the Pastoral Symphony (Catalogue of Works 1921/13).


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
GD 281/41/81
General notes: 

Date given is that of receipt by the Trust.

Cobbe 122
Original database number: