Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Imogen Holst

Letter No.: 
Nov 25 [1947]

The White Gates,

Dearest Imogen

Thank you for your Heavenly Autumn.1  There are some more Donne Sermons you might set - the one which was used as a prayer at the Cecilia Service about music in Heaven.
Now something else I have long been worried about Gustav’s double bass soli (e.g. in particular Saturn, P.F. Ballet & end of Fugal concerto3) - they always seemed to me the one place where Gustav worked to a theory - the C.B2 ought to sound nice alone & therefore it did.  But in practice unless you have a very large body of CBs they can hardly be heard and (and this is the point of my letter) on the wireless they are to me quite inaudible - Please give Adrian3 & other conductors leave to add cellos & perhaps occasionally violas.  I know it is not quite the same sound - but what is the good of a sound which is not heard?4
All love

Uncle Ralph

1. ‘In heaven it is always autumn’, words from the Sermon preached by John Donne on Christmas Day 1624 set by Imogen Holst for SSSAA, just published by Oxford University Press. For the full text of the sermon see Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter (eds), The sermons of John Donne (Berkeley, California, 1953), vol. vi, Sermon no.8 ll 135ff (p.172).
2. Contrabass (i.e. double bass)
3. Adrian Boult
4. i.e. Saturn in The Planets, the ballet The Perfect Fool.

Location of original letter:

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Year added by Imogen Holst.

R.V.W.: a biography, p.278
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