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The Lark Ascending is a popular piece for violin and orchestra, written in 1914 by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was inspired by George Meredith's 122-line poem of the same name about the skylark. It was dedicated to Marie Hall who gave the first performance with piano accompaniment. Contrary to the popular imagination, Vaughan Williams actually wrote sketches for it whilst watching troop ships cross the English Channel at the outbreak of the First World War. A small boy observed him making the sketches and, thinking he was jotting down a secret code, informed a police officer who subsequently arrested the composer.

The war halted composition, but the work was revised in 1920 and it was premiered under conductor Adrian Boult on 14 June 1921, again with Marie Hall as soloist.

The critic from The Times said of the first performance, "It showed supreme disregard for the ways of today or yesterday. It dreamed itself along".

The use of pentatonic scale patterns frees the violin from a strong tonal centre, and shows the impressionistic side of Vaughan Williams' style. This liberty also extends to the metre. The cadenzas for solo violin are written without bar lines, lending them a sense of meditational release. [1] The piece became particularly associated with the English violinist Hugh Bean.

This piece was used by David Crowder Band on "The Lark Ascending or (Perhaps More Accurately, I'm Trying to Make You Sing)", the last song on their album A Collision (or 3 + 4 = 7).

The Lark Ascending is the acknowledged direct inspiration for Larks' Tongues in Aspic by King Crimson (1973) an inspired brash rock-n-roll twist on Vaughan Williams's lyricism. The piece was also used as the main theme for the 1987 Australian film The Year My Voice Broke, starring Noah Taylor and Loene Carmen.

Dreadzone's homage to the beauty of the English countryside, "A Canterbury Tale", uses the initial solo violin theme from The Lark Ascending as a recurring melody.

In 2007, 2008, and 2009 it was voted number one in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, over Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Vaughan Williams' other great work Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.

The Jez Butterworth play Jerusalem (which premiered on 10 July 2009 at the Royal Court Theatre, London) used this piece as its preset music.

References

  1. ^ Megan Hobbs, Birds of a feather, Limelight, October 2002

External links

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