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Book Cover for: Vaughan Williams, Eric Saylor

Vaughan Williams

Eric Saylor

A new biography of which paints the most well-rounded and factually accurate portrait of the composer to date

Ralph Vaughan Williams ranks among the most versatile, influential, and enduringly popular British musicians of his era. Throughout his wide-ranging career-as composer, conductor, editor, scholar, folksong collector, teacher, author, administrator, and philanthropist-Vaughan Williams worked tirelessly to improve the standards and quality of British musical life. His dedicated work ethic and fastidious attention to musical detail helped him forge a compelling and original expressive idiom grounded in a profound understanding of musical history and tradition, popularized in concert staples like the Tallis Fantasia, The Lark Ascending, A London Symphony, the Songs of Travel, and the Serenade to Music.

Drawing upon both recent scholarship and newly accessible scores and correspondence, author Eric Saylor interweaves in Vaughan Williams an exploration of the composer's life - including new insights about his early career, military service in the Great War, and relationships with the women he loved and married - with chapters surveying his enormous body of music, spanning hymn tunes to operas, keyboard etudes to solo concerti, wind band music for amateurs to perhaps the finest symphonic cycle of the twentieth century. The resulting portrait reveals Vaughan Williams's complex artistry and dynamic personality, a portrayal often at odds with the avuncular persona of "Uncle Ralph" familiar to the public. This contemporary reassessment of the composer's life and works provides a concise and engaging overview of both, positioning Vaughan Williams as an artist of rare skill, sensitivity, and human insight.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publish Date: Jul 1st, 2022
  • Pages: 360
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.90in - 6.10in - 1.20in - 1.50lb
  • EAN: 9780190918569
  • Categories: Individual Composer & MusicianHistory & Criticism - GeneralEurope - Great Britain - General

About the Author

Eric Saylor is Professor of Music History at Drake University. He is the author of English Pastoral Music: From Arcadia to Utopia, 1900-1955 (2017), co-editor of Blackness in Opera (with Naomi André and Karen M. Bryan, 2015) and The Sea in the British Musical Imagination (with Christopher Scheer, 2012), and former President of the North American British Music Studies Association.

Praise for this book


"Saylor's writing style is eminently readable; it flows like a stream, but is carefully documented, chock-a-block full of details and info in rapid succession, dense though it is. He is good at piecing together a life of details and tidbits; like Sherlock Holmes, he teases out snippets everywhere." -- Marvin J. Ward, CVNC


"I had long believed that RVW was a highly under-appreciated composer, as well as somewhat misunderstood, & those concepts were hugely confirmed by this book; I had never imagined the breadth, depth, diversity, and extent of his works and his activities." -- Marvin J. Ward, BA & MA, SUNY Albany; MA, Université Laval, Québec; Ph.D., UNC-CH, CVNC


"the great value of the book is Saylor's intelligent view of the music, notably his analyses and interpretations of the symphonies and other major works" -- Simon Heffer


"Vaughan Williams enthusiasts of all hues will want this; but prepare to be renedered breathless at the great man's astonishing energy" -- Andrew Green


"... a valuable study of Vaughan Williams's long life and multifarious work, one that will serve both the novice listener and the scholar. It is fair-minded and wide-ranging, both easy to read and unusually weighty for such a short book... recommended to anybody in search of information about this admirable man and creator." -- Tim Page, Wall Street Journal


"... a ground-breaking biography... [Saylor] approaches his subject with fresh ears and a host of thoroughly researched and well-rounded insights that look set to change the discourse surrounding the composer... Saylor's measured contribution to our understanding of Vaughan Williams is welcome, and can only add to our understanding..." -- Hugh Morris, The Guardian


"This new study demands the attention of admirers of the composer; it will come as a salutary correction to those who continue to deny the composer's genius" -- Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion


"Few great twentieth-century composers are both as popular and as misunderstood as Ralph Vaughan Williams: a national icon whose broader significance for the music of his time, and ours, is only just beginning to be fully appreciated. And few artists pose as many challenges to the biographer and critic: an exceptionally long and rich life, a huge and varied body of work, and a reputation often based as much on mythology as fact. Eric Saylor's landmark new study is therefore especially impressive, as it elegantly weaves together a scrupulously researched yet always engaging account of Vaughan Williams's life and art, makes accessible the latest scholarship (including the revelatory rediscovery of the composer's early works), and offers along the way myriad new insights into a complicated personal life and iconic creations such as The Lark Ascending" -- Alain Frogley, University of Connecticut


"Eric Saylor's new biography of Vaughan Williams, one of Britain's greatest composers, is the first to take full account of research published in the last twenty years, of the hitherto unfamiliar early works of the composer published for the first time in the last 25 years, and of the online corpus of some 5000 letters written by him only recently made accessible. Saylor pulls all this together to give us a far more complete picture of the man and his works than we have had before. His book is a fitting tribute to Vaughan Williams for the 150th anniversary of his birth." -- Hugh Cobbe, Director of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust


"Saylor is generous and meticulous in his estimates of Vaughan Williams's writing, ...Saylor shows us how Vaughan Williams wrote in almost every musical genre...Vaughan Williams's music speaks to Americans and to many others out of a particular national culture." -- Allen C. Guelzo, Claremont Review of Books


"A must resource for scholarship on Vaughan Williams. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals." -- Choice


"A must-have resource for scholarship on Vaughan Williams." -- J. E. Druesedow Jr., CHOICE


"Saylor's biography is scrupulously researched yet thoroughly engaging, offering a fitting tribute on the 150th anniversary of his birth." -- Mary Nemet, The Stringendo