Simon Heffer, Author VAUGHAN WILLIAMSSimon Heffer< $26.95 (167p) ISBN 978-1-55553-472-1

It is to be questioned whether a new study of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) is called for, when a couple of good biographies are already available, including one by his widow, Ursula, and Michael Kennedy's excellent book on the music. But journalist and author Heffer (Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England), who seems to have no special musical training (which his subject would probably have wryly appreciated) has done a thoroughly workmanlike job of evoking the composer's peculiarly English ethos. VW (as he is known in England) set out consciously to be an English composer rather than a member of any international group or movement, and though there were critics who derided what they saw as his parochiality, his music, Heffer observes, has survived with remarkable strength, some of it now even seen as prophetic. Heffer is particularly insightful about VW's last symphonies, the unaccountably neglected piano concerto and his long and constantly thwarted ambition to compose operas that would hold their place in the repertory. But Heffer has nothing much to add, in this slim volume, to what is already known of the life. (If only some scholar could unearth a more complete account of VW's period of study with Ravel in Paris—surely one of the unlikeliest matchings of two great composers ever made.) What Heffer has done very convincingly is to set forth eloquently what makes VW's music not only internationally admired, but a source of particular pride and solace to his countrymen. Heffer concludes with an all-too-brief critical discography. (Apr. 6)

Reviewed on: 02/26/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 152 pages - 978-0-571-24575-8
Paperback - 166 pages - 978-0-571-31539-0
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