Part of the WFMT Radio Network

Archives: August 2014

Top Tracks: A Green and Pleasant Land

Top Picks from the British Isles

We asked and you delivered! These are the choice picks from our Facebook page, thanks to our well-versed listeners. Special thanks to Michael Rosin for compiling this blog post.

Best British Symphony:

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony 5 is the Best British Symphony -
Friends, what an honor it is to finally write about this symphony. One
of my favorites since high school, there was a point in my life when I
became obsessed with this symphony, especially the third movement -
listening to it every night before I went to bed. This piece
represents the zenith of Ralph Vaughan Williams' pastoral music.
Written during the entire duration of World War II, the piece is a war
symphony, meant to evoke the landscape of England, at one of the most
threatening and terrifying times in Great Britain's history. Themes
throughout the symphony are derived from an opera Vaughan Williams
composed earlier, entitled "The Pilgrim's Progress."
I've decided to share the life-changing third movement. This
British composer wrote his most beautiful piece during the worst
bombing of the UK. This piece does not appear on any soundtrack, nor
in any commercial. Please listen to the whole thing - I promise it's
nothing like anything you've ever heard before.

Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (arguably the
most authentic recording, being that Boult and Vaughan Williams were
good friends).

Best British Opera:

Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes" is the Best British Opera -
"Peter Grimes" is a staple in Great Britain's operatic canon. The
opera was inspired by a poem of the same title. The poem was written
by George Crabbe and inspired Britten deeply, since both men were
natives of Suffolk. It premiered in London on June 7, 1945.
Britten's partner, Peter Pears, played the title role for it's first
performance - he was also a key figure throughout the opera's creation
and production. There was an orchestral suite published separately
entitled "Four Sea Interludes" which captures many of the important
themes and moments of the opera. I've decided to post the opening of
the second act (also the second movement of the "Four Sea
Interludes") subtitled "A Summer Sunday Morning." This section in
particular has such incredible orchestration and a deep lively mood,
both of which Britten was so masterful at capturing.
Sir Colin Davis conducting.


Best British Concerto:

Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tuba
Concerto are the Best British Concerto - The Elgar Cello concerto
really speaks for itself. Written in 1919, it was one of Elgar's last
pieces. Initially, it had been poorly received. It was only after some
time that it became a popular work, receiving much attention. It is
now a standard cello concerto and even part of orchestral repertoire.
Like Vaughan Williams' Fifth, it too was inspired by a world war, this
one instead being WWI - the "Great War."
A famous recording - Jacqueline Du Pre, under the baton of Daniel
Barenboim. London Philharmonic.

- Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto is a good partner to the Elgar
Cello Concerto. It too was written towards the end of the composer's
life and was not received well at it's premiere. Composed in 1954,
the piece was written for the principal tuba player of the London
Symphony Orchestra, Philip Catelinet. The composition is relatively
short for a three-movement concerto, lasting barely thirteen minutes.
Although it's orchestration initially confused the public, it is now
one of a few standard tuba concertos.
Patrick Harrild on tuba, and the London Symphony Orchestra under the
direction of Bryden Thomson.

Best British Song:

The classic Greensleeves wins by a mile! Most likely England's most
popular folk song, references to it's existence date back as far as
the late sixteenth century. Although the text and music have been
attributed to King Henry VIII, it is not proven that he is the actual
composer. Throughout the centuries, it has been arranged and
transcribed for almost every conceivable instrumentation. The tune is
even a famous Christmas carol, "What Child is this?"
Since Ralph Vaughan Williams features prominently in this blog, I will
share his famous orchestral arrangement of the tune - "Fantasia on
Greensleeves." Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.

8 Comments Post a Comment
The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
You have opened up the world of Classical Music to me, where previously, it seemed too complicated.
Steffen Demeter
This is simply one of the very best radio programmes in the medium!...The study of the people, the times, and the events that inform the music we otherwise enjoy and even, heaven forbid, take for granted, brings the entire world of the music and the composer to life.
Walther Davies
There isn't a program you broadcast on Exploring Music" that isn't of interest. I find them all engaging. It is a combination of variety of subject, intellectual curiosity and your obvious enthusiasm which characterize your satisfying programs.
Michael Sanders
It’s a great way to re-engage myself with consciousness before heading off to work.
I Love this program! I am in 7th grade and I am the complete opposite of the other kids. I am 4th chair in the orchestra and I love to read. But most of all, I LOVE classical music!
Claudia Wertz
Your show has helped open my mind and heart to this world of music, and every show I hear confirms my place in music and gives me new ideas for where I'd like to go with it in the future….I grew up with classical music as a child and always held it in my heart, but I didn't have the confidence to be a good student (or a good violinist.)
Christine Anderson
Listening to you is almost interactive.You invite us in with so many well modulated dramatic and informative comments, enticing, enthusiastic interpretations, and coherent, beautiful presentations. It's a privilege to follow you into the musical space you create.
Sally Rosenbaum
I just love this program. It is soothing and comfortable at the end of the day. I find his comments interesting, but they aren't so dragged out that there is very little music. The balance of both is just right.
Jean Quay
Newsletters Thank You!