Letter from Adrian Boult to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 

The British Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcasting House,
London, W.1

Dear Ralph,

It was great to get your letter, because I know you aren’t given to exaggerating.  And my delay in answering isn’t because I was slack but just very rushed.
I think you saw what we all felt about the Symphony - if there was inspiration about the performance it was the work that put it there.  And if I got the bit between my teeth it was simply because the music made me feel like that.  You know I feel that it is all very well for conductors to have their readings when works have taken their place in the repertory.  While they are new it is really his business to absorb the composer’s mind as much as possible - his own will emerge later - in fact, all too soon usually.  And though it is harder perhaps (difficult anyway), I feel there is no excuse for a conductor who, at a first performance, causes a composer to say “very interesting, perhaps, but not my work.”  In R.C.M. days we spent most of our time conducting accompaniments - I always used to say it was easy to do symphonies.  So don’t worry if I ask too many questions - the thing will shake down after a performance or two - & then you may cease to recognise it!
I do agree about P.F. at Salzburg & will do it if (1) there is time (2) we can rehearse enough.  Re Bax I am more hard hearted - they know so little of him that small doses work better perhaps at first.  And a Symphony to start with, is pretty strong meat.  Job certainly I wish there were time for them both!1
See you at Dorking - good luck to it all - v many thanks for the letter and the symphony.


Boult was to perform a programme of British music at Salzburg. VW had suggested  Job of his own works, Bax’s Third Symphony (Tintagel was proposed) and The Perfect Fool ballet music, Egdon Heath or Hammersmith by Holst. See VWL 350414c.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/9, ff.142-143
Moore, Music and Friends, pp.118-119
Original database number: