Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Adrian Boult

Letter No.: 
24th June, 1948.

The White Gates, Dorking.

Dear Adrian

                                       Symphony in E. minor.1

I listened to the broadcast the other day so far as my wireless allowed, but as usual now with the Third Programme it rattled and howled and also invented a brand new noise rather like a banshee, which went on most of the time.  Nevertheless I managed to hear it was a fine performance, for which I thank you.
This was the first time I had heard it over the wireless and I note two points.
One is – full score Page 60 at Fig. 18: The crotchet E on the Timpani had better come out because it obscures the harmony, at all events over the wireless.2
The other point is that in the Scherzo the side drum sounded over the wireless to be still muffled as it is in the slow movement.  Do you think the player did not tighten his snares, or whatever he does, to get that very sharp high sound which I want?  I wonder if you could ask him next time you see him what the proper direction should be to get that effect, and if there is still time I will have it put into the score.3


(R. Vaughan Williams).

Sir Adrian Boult

1.  Catalogue of Works 1947/3. Boult had conducted the first performance of the Sixth Symphony on 21 April at the Royal Albert Hall. This letter refers to the fourth broadcast performance, on June 18, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Maida Vale Studios.
2.  There is a crotchet F in the timpani at fig. 18 of the first movement in the published score – but the rehearsal figures may not match up.
3.  There is a note ‘Side Drum (unmuffled)’ on p.83 of the published score.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add MS 60499, f. 206
General notes: 

Typewritten letter, signed.
Two letters from Boult’s secretary G.M. Beckett in response to this letter (British Library Add MS 60499, ff. 204-5) note the altered directions in the parts.

Moore, Music and friends, p.152
Original database number: