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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS and the Symphony

by Lionel Pike

Size: Royal Octavo
Extent: 352pp
Contents: Prelude; a chapter dedicated to each of the nine symphonies;
Epilogue; Bibliography; Index of Works; Technical Index; General Index
ISBN: 0 907689 54 X
Retail price: £45

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See review by Rob Barnett

Vaughan 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.

Lionel 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, his tutors
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).

Comment from 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.'

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