Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Alan Frank (OUP)

Letter No.: 
May 24th 1952

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Frank,1


First: welcome home. And now to answer numerous letters, both from you and Foote.2
1]  Sinfonia Antarctica3  This is the correct title. I have never numbered my symphonies. This has been done by other people for me. As regards the connection with the Scott film - would it be honest not to refer to this at all? If it is absolutely necessary, then I suggest that we should merely say that some of the themes are taken from the music which I wrote for Scott of the Antarctic. Otherwise people will think that it is a mere bit of carpentry. - which as a matter of fact, it largely is; but don’t tell anybody this.4  Will it matter that some of the music has already been issued - in a commercial record - rather against my will? There is no connection so far as I know between the Scott music and my sixth symphony. As a matter of fact, some of the music of that symphony was suggested by music I wrote for “Flemish Farm.” This, again, is confidential.5
2]  Orchestration     12 woodwind, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, any amount of percussion, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, wind machine, vibraphone, pianoforte, harp, organ, soprano solo, small S.A. chorus, & strings. Approximate length, I believe, 40 minutes.
First performance. January 14th. in Manchester - & I believe in London, January 21st.
3]  “In the Spring.”6  I enclose a letter from the Barnes Society - could we do anything about presenting them with a few copies when it is out? And foregoing performing fees when it is performed at their official meetings? I should like to know your opinion of the best key. Foote favours D & I believe he is right. Certainly so for community singing - but as I have told them the words seem to me quite unsuitable for community singing.7
4] [text missing]

5] Concerto Record. Thank you very much for this present which I will try over very soon - everybody seems to take the first movement too fast. Menuhin was almost twice too fast until I told him how to play it.

1. Music Editor at Oxford University Press in succession to Norman Peterkin (1947); Head of Music from 1954 until his retirement in 1975.
2. The part of the letter about Sinfonia Antartica was written in response to a letter from Alan Frank of 22nd May:
I gather that your new Symphony has been announced in the Press in connection with JB’s  performance. Do you by any chance have a copy of what appeared, or better still, can you give me the following information, please? What is the exact title, and is it to be numbered, as No. 7; can you perhaps be kind enough to give me a note of the orchestration and approximate duration? How is the connection with the Scott film to be mentioned in the Press, if at all? And incidentally, is there some indirect relationship between the last movement of the Sixth Symphony and the Scott film? Between ourselves, I heard in a roundabout way that Ernest Irving  had hinted at such to a certain music critic, and it would be greatly interesting to me to know if there is something in this: and in any case to know your wishes as regards statements that may be made in the Press about both works.’
3. Catalogue of Works, 1952/2. UW follows VW’s incorrect spelling of the Italian title.
4. The connexions between the music for the film Scott of the Antarctic (Catalogue of Works, 1948/2) and Sinfonia Antartica are discussed in Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, pp. 359ff.
5. On the use of some music from Flemish Farm in the Sixth Symphony (Catalogue of Works, 1947/3),  see Catalogue of Works, 1943/4.
6. Catalogue of Works, 1952/1.
7. See also VWL2408 on In the spring. In his reply on 26th May Frank confirmed that OUP would not issue any statement about the Symphony and its connexion with the Scott film and that he would know what answer to give to any questions about it. He suggested a private letter from VW to Ernest Irving to clear matters up about connexions between the film music and the Sixth Symphony which VW sent (Irving’s reply survives and is VWL2423). Finally he agreed that D was the best key for In the spring.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 2008F, 119Q, 119P, 2008J
General notes: 

Incomplete. The letter is in the hand of UW signed by VW.

Cobbe 580
Original database number: