Williams' nine symphonies are among the finest pieces of music written
in the twentieth century; they are certainly among the greatest works
by any British composer, each one revealing new aspects of Vaughan Williams'
formidable creative personality. But for many years these works
were undervalued by imperceptive critics - and Vaughan Williams did
himself no favours by joking, with misplaced humility, about what he
felt was his own lack of expertise.
In truth, Vaughan Williams' symphonies have depths far beyond the pure
'sound of music', depths that will stand analytical investigation just
as the works of other great symphonists do. But many of these profundities
lie hidden. Lionel Pike's penetrating analysis of all nine works reveals
the hidden complexities that lie below the surface. Vaughan Williams
and the Symphony has been written in the belief that 'RVW' has been
consistently denied his rightful place in twentieth-century music and
in the history of the symphony, and that close investigation can uncover
elements of construction that show the mind of a genius at work. Dr
Pike demonstrates that at least five of the nine symphonies - the Pastoral
and Nos. 4, 5, 6
and 9 - can stand comparison with the best.
Pike is Senior Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway (University of
London), and has been organist of the college chapel since 1969. For
four years he was Dean of the Faculty of Music in the University of
London. He was a chorister and assistant organist at Bristol Cathedral,
and at the University of Oxford he was organ scholar of Pembroke College,
being Sir David Lumsden and Dr H. K. Andrews. The research for his D.Phil
was on Renaissance music.
Dr Pike's first book, Beethoven, Sibelius, and the 'Profound Logic'
(Athlone Press, London, 1978), was named one of the three best academic
books in any subject for the year of its publication. He has written
widely on music, and has edited Renaissance music and choral works by
Purcell (he is a member of the Committee of the Purcell Society). His
most recent publication is Hexachords in Late-Renaissance Music (Ashgate,
Aldershot, 1998). He also has a particular interest in the works of
Robert Simpson, contributing the entry on Simpson to the second edition
of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians (2001); he also wrote the article on Peter Philips to The
New Dictionary of National Biography (forthcoming).
Michael Kenndy, author of The Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams:
'Dr Lionel Pike has written the fullest and most comprehensive account
of Vaughan Williams' symphonies yet attempted. He documents the background
of all nine works, relates them to one another and analyses them in
depth. All future writers about this composer will be indebted to this
book, in which the author explodes once and for all the myth of "amateurishness"
in Vaughan Williams' method of composition and orchestration.'