Symphony No. 4 (Vaughan Williams)
Unlike Vaughan Williams's first three symphonies, it was not given a title, the composer stating that it was to be understood as pure music, without any incidental or external inspiration.
In contrast to many of Vaughan Williams's previous compositions, the symphony displays a severity of tone. The composer himself once observed of it, "I'm not at all sure that I like it myself now. All I know is that it's what I wanted to do at the time."[This quote needs a citation] The British composer Sir William Walton admired the work greatly, speaking of it as "the greatest symphony since Beethoven".[This quote needs a citation] Only two symphonies of Vaughan Williams end loudly, No. 4 and No. 8.
The work was first performed on 10 April 1935 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. Its first recording, made two years later, featured the composer himself conducting the same orchestra in what proved to be his only commercial recording of any of his symphonies. It was released on 78-rpm discs in the U.K. by HMV and in the U.S. by RCA Victor, and has been reissued on LP and CD.
The United States premiere was given on 19 December 1935 by Artur Rodziński and the Cleveland Orchestra. The earliest American performance to have survived in recorded form was the broadcast of 14 March 1943 by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski. It was the only time he ever conducted the work and his performance has been issued on CD by Cala Records.
The work is in four movements with the third and fourth linked:
A typical performance takes about 32 minutes.
Opening dissonance of the first movement:
Germinal motive that develops out of the opening dissonance:
Motive built of fourths (measure 14–15):
The symphony is scored for a large orchestra including: 2 or 3 flutes (2nd doubling on piccolo), 2 or 3 oboes (2nd doubling on cor anglais), 2 clarinets (in B♭), bass clarinet (in B♭) (ad lib.), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon (ad lib.), 4 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in C), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, side drum, cymbals, bass drum, strings.
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor is alone in Vaughan Williams’s canon in having received as many recordings by non-British conductors as by British ones. The list of the former includes Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein, both with the New York Philharmonic; André Previn, Leonard Slatkin, Paavo Berglund, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Bernard Haitink. British conductors who have recorded it include Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Vernon Handley, Paul Daniel, Richard Hickox, Sir Andrew Davis and Leopold Stokowski (in the 'live' war-time broadcast referred to above) as well as the composer himself, famously, in 1937. In 2011 the Oregon Symphony Orchestra recorded it for Music for a Time of War. Roughly 30 mins. long, it is the most tautly conceived of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies.[original research?] It is a work of ferocity, violence, toughness of expression, and dissonance.[original research?]
- Barbirolli/BBC Symphony Orchestra (1950)
- Berglund/Royal Philharmonic – EMI ASD 3904 (1979)
- Bernstein/New York Philharmonic – CBS 72727 (1965)
- Boult/London Philharmonic – Decca LXT 2909 (1953)
- Boult/New Philharmonia Orchestra – EMI
- Davis-A/BBC Symphony Orchestra – Teldec
- Haitink/London Philharmonic – EMI CD 556564-2 (1998)
- Handley/Royal Liverpool Philharmonic – EMI
- Manze/Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (2016)
- Mitropoulos/New York Philharmonic – Music & Arts (1953, at Carnegie Hall)
- Mitropoulos/New York Philharmonic – Columbia ML 5158 (1956)
- Previn/LSO – RCA
- Sargent/BBC Symphony Orchestra – Carlton BBC Radio Classics (1963)
- Slatkin – RCA
- Thomson/LSO – Chandos CHAN 8633 (1988)
- Vaughan Williams/BBC SO – Dutton CDBP 9731 (1937)
Peggy Glanville-Hicks' claim
His student, the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, claimed that he had borrowed the opening theme of the first movement from her Sinfonietta for Small Orchestra in D minor (1935), and that she in turn borrowed it back for her opera The Transposed Heads (1953). Glanville-Hicks did not complete her Sinfonietta until three months after the premiere of Vaughan Williams's symphony, but she was writing it at the same time as the composition of the symphony.
- Adams, Byron. "American Symphony Orchestra – Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1934)". Retrieved March 2013. Check date values in: