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Encyclopedia > Symphony No. 6 (Vaughan Williams)

Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony in E minor, published as Symphony No. 6, was composed in 1944-1948, during and immediately after World War II. Dedicated to Michael Mullinar, it was first performed by Sir Adrian Boult and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in April 1948. Within a year it had received some 100 performances. Vaughan Williams, very nervous about this symphony, threatened several times to tear up the draft. At the same time, his programme note for the first performance took a defiantly flippant tone. A statue of Ralph Vaughan Williams in Dorking. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH (April 8, 1889 – February 22, 1983) was an English conductor. ... The BBC Symphony Orchestra is the principal orchestra of the British Broadcasting Corporation and one of the leading orchestras in Britain. ... Year 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the 1948 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

The composer never intended the symphony to be programmatic, but it was inevitable that his post-war audience should associate its disturbing and often violent character with the detonation of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He is widely quoted as having said, "It never seems to occur to people that a man might just want to write a piece of music" in response to these questions.[1][2] In connection with the last movement, the composer did eventually suggest that a quotation from Act IV of Shakespeare's The Tempest comes close to the music’s meaning: "We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep." [3] The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the epicenter. ... For other uses, see Hiroshima (disambiguation). ... Megane-bashi (Spectacles Bridge) Nagasaki   listen? (長崎市; -shi, literally long peninsula) is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture located at the south-western coast of Kyushu, Japan. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... For other uses, see Tempest. ...

The Symphony is noteworthy for its unusually discordant harmonic language, reminiscent in approach if not in technique of his F Minor Symphony from over a decade earlier, and for its inclusion of a tenor saxophone among the woodwinds. In several respects this symphony marks the beginning of Vaughan Williams’s experiments with orchestration that so characterise his late music. The Symphony No. ... The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax. ... A woodwind instrument is an instrument in which sound is produced by blowing against an edge or by a vibrating with air a thin piece of wood known as a reed. ...

The symphony is in four linked movements (i.e. the movements lead straight into one another with no pause between them), and includes a number of ideas that return in various guises throughout the symphony, for example the use of simultaneous chords a half-step apart, or the short-short-long rhythmic figure.



The symphony begins very loudly with the full orchestra playing simultaneously in F minor and E minor. The chaotic rush of notes makes the listener’s job of getting or keeping bearings relatively difficult. Because the composer uses so many disruptive techniques in both rhythm and harmony, there is often no clear sense of meter or key. Structurally, the movement falls loosely into the category of sonata form with its carefully organised contrasting themes and key centres, though this may not be apparent on first hearing. Indeed, the most striking point of contrast may be the reappearance near the end of the movement of one of the main themes in a clear and rich E major. The first movement ends with a sustained unison E in the low instruments, at which point the second movement begins. For other uses, see Rhythm (disambiguation). ... Harmony is the use and study of pitch simultaneity, and therefore chords, actual or implied, in music. ... Particularly, this article is not about Hymn meters, as often found on hymn tunes Meter (UK spelling: metre) is the measurement of a musical line into measures of stressed and unstressed beats, indicated in Western music notation by a symbol called a time signature. ... For other uses, see key. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... Also see: E minor, or E flat major. ...


The second movement starts a tritone away, in B-flat minor. The main themes are so chromatic that they eventually have little sense of profile or character. A central feature of this movement is a "rat-a-tat" rhythmic motive that recurs through most of the movement, beginning in the second measure. At one point that figure goes away for a while, and the effect of its eventual return is an almost palpable sense of dread. After an enormous battering climax fuelled by that figure (including the single loudest point in the entire symphony), the movement winds down with a lengthy solo played by the cor anglais, still accompanied by the same three-note ostinato. The sustained last note links via a half-step drop to the Scherzo Movement. For other uses, see Tritone (disambiguation). ... B-flat minor is a minor scale based on B-flat, consisting of the pitches B-flat, C, D-flat, E-flat, F, G-flat, A-flat and B-flat (natural minor scale). ... Diatonic and chromatic are important terms in Western music theory. ... In music, a motif is a perceivable or salient reoccurring fragment or succession of notes that may used to construct the entirety or parts of complete melodies, themes. ... The cor anglais, or English horn, is a double reed woodwind musical instrument in the woodwind family. ...

Scherzo: Allegro vivace

This movement, heavily fugal in texture, follows a typical scherzo/trio structure, but the overall feel is hardly one of amusement; the high spirits are decidedly raucous and sardonic. Although the rhythmic style is less disjointed than in the first movement (the listener has little trouble following the meter here), the harmony (heavily dominated by tritones) and orchestration both revert to the first movement’s density. The trio section features the saxophone’s only true solo role in the symphony; when the scherzo material recurs the composer turns the fugue subject upside down and eventually combines that form with the original version. With the final climax (the trio theme stated by full orchestra) the music almost collapses, leaving the bass clarinet holding the sustained note that links to the Finale. In music, a fugue (IPA: ) is a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred to as voices, irrespective of whether the work is vocal or instrumental. ...

Epilogue: Moderato

This movement follows a vaguely fugal structure, but that structure is not especially perceptible to the listener because the entire movement is marked pp, meaning played very softly (and at one point senza crescendo, an instruction not to increase the volume), with the further admonishment senza espressivo, meaning without any expression. This makes the movement extremely difficult to play, and the audience must use great concentration to keep from losing track of the composer’s train of thought. Vaughan Williams himself, in his aforementioned programme note, speaks of “drifting” and “whiffs of theme” in characterising the music. This is the movement that sparked so many to see the work as a whole as being a vision of a post-nuclear world. Writers have used such words as “dead”, “barren”, and “ruins” to describe it. Curiously enough, both the second and fourth movements have the same tempo marking but the feel is decidedly slower here.

The symphony continues to provoke much speculation about its “meaning”, and the only clue from Vaughan Williams himself (as quoted by his widow), points us in the direction of an agnostic Nunc dimittis. A typical performance takes about 35 minutes. The start of the Nunc dimittis in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry The Nunc dimittis (also Song of Simeon or Canticle of Simeon) is a canticle from a text in the second chapter of Luke (Luke 2:29–32) named after its first words in Latin. ...


The first two recordings of this symphony, made by Sir Adrian Boult and Leopold Stokowski within two days of one another in early 1949, use the original version of the third movement; the composer revised that movement in 1950. The work has since been recorded by many others including Sir John Barbirolli, Andre Previn, Bernard Haitink and Bryden Thomson. Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH (April 8, 1889 – February 22, 1983) was an English conductor. ... Leopold Stokowski (born Antoni Stanisław Bolesławowicz April 18, 1882 in London, England, died September 13, 1977 in Nether Wallop, England) was the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air. ... Sir John (Giovanni Battista) Barbirolli (December 2, 1899 - July 29, 1970), was a British conductor and cellist who led the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others. ... Andr Previn (born April 6, 1929) is a prominent pianist, orchestral conductor, and composer. ... ... Bryden Thomson (Born 16 July 1928 in Ayr, Scotland, died 14 November 1991, Dublin, Ireland) was a Scottish conductor. ...

Part of the symphony's first movement (Allegro) was used as the theme tune for the ITV drama A Family at War. For other uses, see ITV (disambiguation). ... A Family At War was a British television drama made by Granada Television for ITV. The series was transmitted between 1970 and 1972 and examined the lives of the working-class Ashton family of the city of Liverpool and their experiences during the Second World War. ...


  1. ^ Classical.Net book review
  2. ^ NewBerkshire.com concert review
  3. ^ Vaughan Williams, Ursula. (1964) R.V.W. A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Oxford University Press. (See Chapter XIII p.283)



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