Vaughan Williams score to get first play – 100 years late

October 12, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A previously unheard musical score by the famous British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is to be performed for the first time – more than 100 years after it was written.
Ralph Vaughan Williams who died more than 50 years ago

Vaughan Williams – who died more than 50 years ago – composed the piece in 1899 aged 26 as he studied for his Doctor of Music examination.

Williams, born in Gloucestershire in 1872, was inspired by Verdi and dismissed as a musical rebel by his tutor for his disregard for musical conventions.

The 45 minute score, which took Williams 18 months to write, had been stored in the Cambridge University Library for more than 100 years.

It was only identified as an unperformed example of Williams work when it was put on display as part of an exhibition.

Conductor Alan Tongue now has the task of conducting the score, re-named ‘A Cambridge Mass’, in Croydon next March after spotting the document on display.

He said: ”Gazing at a page of the score displayed in a glass case, I knew immediately that here was a significant work.

”I thought to myself: ‘I want to hear this played and I want to be the one to conduct it.’ It was a moment of revelation.”

An excited Alan visited the Manuscripts Room after the exhibition closed and asked to see the mass.

He sat enthralled, turning each page in the hushed atmosphere, trying to imagine the sounds and recognised it as work by a musical great.

Alan approached the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust and obtained a copy of the original score and transcribed the piece – which still had pencil markings made by the original Cambridge University examiners.

It was only then that Alan discovered the piece had never been played.

Alan said: ”As my computer played the synthesised sounds there were too many uncorrected mistakes.

”I was privileged to be the first person to hear the work.”

Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, said: ”It really is amazingly good – there are many signs of the great composer who was to emerge.”

Williams died in 1958 having enjoyed an esteemed career in the world of ballet, orchestra and opera.

He also wrote film music, composing the famous score for 1948 movie, Scott of the Antarctic.

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