Letter from Ernest Irving to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
March 17th., 1952

Ernest Irving
4, The Lawn,
Ealing Green, W.5.

Dear R.V.W.

After a final and careful read-through I cannot find any reason to alter my first opinion.
The work is, like its subject, grand and expansive; static in places, heavy in texture, cold in colour and episodic in working out. The Antarctic is like that, and any epic founded on Man’s struggle with Nature is necessarily episodical. Section two has a salty tang with dolphins and unicorns among the whales and porpoises.
Your worry about “my” three bars is pure moonshine. They are just a kittiwake imitating Mabel Ritchie, and you have not even stuck to my original!
The Intermezzo is all right - portraying the simple domestic sincerity which must - or should - mark the emotional set-up of an explorer’s wife! And the last movement returns to the majesty of the original theme - with a most moving finish.
It should be remembered that you were inspired by the story and its milieu, with only the script and a few actual photographs of the Antarctic scene; short of going there, a poet or composer’s muse could not get closer touch with Nature. I have often recounted my amazement on finding that the Main Title Music, written out of the blue, exactly fitted the glacier climb.
I am certain John Barbirolli will like it, and give it the sostenuto playing it requires. I find the modern practice of turning non-legato crotchets into quavers increasingly distressing, and the new Festival Hall shows it up nakedly.
I have put the Symphony in a Folio. Please do not return it; it will help to keep the score clean and tidy, and Roy Douglas will find it useful.
The Ides of March are past and you have pleasant weather for your journey, but keep out of the east wind.
All kind thoughts,
Yours ever,


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/19, f. 149

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