Peaceful sound for troubling times in The Lark Ascending

Long Crendon by Robert Gallon
Long Crendon by Robert Gallon

Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending is a contemplative and tender tone poem composed as a reaction to George Meredith's poem:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake…

Despite its peaceful sound, Williams's symphonic poem was written to a backdrop of military scenes. The composer was holidaying on the coast when Britain entered the First World War and ships were engaging in fleet manoeuvres.

He later told the story that the melody came as he walked the rock, at which point he jotted down the notes. A young scout then made a citizen's arrest, believing Williams was drawing coastline for the enemy.

The Lark Ascending performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra with David Nolan on violin and Vernon Handley conducting:

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