The Lark Ascending
Yesterday, December 15, was the centenary of the first performance of Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending". It was celebrated by Jennifer Pike's recreation last night of the first performance in the original venue, a village hall in Shirehampton near Bristol.
I don't know whether that performance was recorded - I hope it was, and I'll look out for it in the usual places - but here is a good substitute performed recently on the steps of St George's Hall in Bristol by members of the Bristol Ensemble:
That's a beautifully produced video. I wonder if the audio and video were recorded separately, though. The cleanliness of the recorded sound -- almost a "CD" sound, with a microphone directly on top of the soloist, and the ensemble mixed to be more distant -- seems improbable for an outdoor recording. And there seem to very tiny sync issues between the audio and video.
Lydia -- Think of it more as a music video. Some performance scenes shot inside, some outside, pretty flying birds, etc.
The Lark Ascending has never been a piece that I've enjoyed. Although I appreciate why others do
I think they sensibly went inside for the audio!
Steve, many thanks for finding the Julia Hwang performance on the BBC website. It occurred to me when viewing it that it can also be seen as a memorial to Dame Diana Rigg who sadly passed away recently.
I bought the sheet music to "The Lark Ascending" a couple of years ago. Nope. No chance. I'll have to enjoy this one vicariously.
Yes, it’s not as easy as it might sound (assuming that it does sound easy). Hilary Hahn made an exquisite recording of it.
I found it a lot of fun to learn. It is, I think, marginally less difficult than the first-tier Romantic concertos like the Bruch, assuming that you have a well-ordered left hand with good agility.
James Ehnes made a very interesting comment about this piece recently, which I thought also related to some recent conversations here about expressing emotion in music.
I'll be the contrary crank on this one. The only time I heard Lark Ascending I thought it was mindless pentatonic noodling. --Sorry.
The piece is inspired by the experience you could still have easily in the days this piece was composed: strolling in the european countryside in spring, summer, and listening to the omnipresent larks (eurasian skylark to be precise) that sing strongly high in the sky. Tragically, those eurasian skylarks have now all but disappeared due to intensive farming which has destroyed the natural environment. I really love nature and the piece succeeds in evoking that natural countryside feeling in me.
Round here (Oxfordshire) Skylarks are still fairly numerous although "red-listed" in the country as a whole. I don't share the national affection for the piece, although it makes a change from Delius's cuckoo. Actually I haven't heard an actual cuckoo for years.
Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring
Hi Joel, mindless pentatonic noodling is one of the things I do when I finish reading/playing some pieces and let my mind and fingers wander. It is only natural that doing so "pentatonically" would occur because it sort of piles 5ths upon each other in random but still harmonious order - not just for me, but for so much of "World Music."
Personally I find Lark Ascending one of the most emotional pieces in the repertoire. I never thought that much about it until I started to learn it Previously, I'd always had it in the 'nice but not exactly deep' category. Now I think it's really pretty deep as well...
I'm somewhere in between the rapture that the English seem to have for the piece and Joel, whose comment made me laugh.
Such pentatonic-sounding pieces are very sensitive to pure intonation.
And those very exposed passages in 5ths. No room for the slightest error in intonation. No place to hide. And you've got to make it seem easy and effortless. That's why it is one of the most difficult solo pieces around.
I didn't care for this piece when I first heard it, but decided to give it time. I've come to love this piece, and find it deeply emotional. I've become a fan of some of his other work as well. Perhaps someday I will attempt at least parts of it, but I've already one long-term goal piece I may not live long enough to reach (Biber's Passacaglia) :)
This piece holds a very special place in my heart, and that of my wife. It brought the two of us together, actually. A long story which is impossible to do justice here.
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