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Vaughan Williams Hardcover – 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555534724
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555534721
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 14.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 336 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,747,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
true to oneself April 12 2005
By LuelCanyon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In one of his last utterances, shortly before his death, Vaughan Williams said: "Modernism and conservatism are irrelevant. What matters it to be true to oneself." Simon Heffer's accomplished 150page biography of Vaughan Williams ably proves the verity of the great composer's personal creed with distinctive prose that luckily also includes a skilled overview (and some cherished details) of his musical works.

Heffer secures the essential threads between VW's family (his father, at his son's birth, was the Vicar of Down Ampney and his mother was a Wedgewood, and neice of Charles Darwin) and his lifelong output of quintessentially English music. The author wisely allows this bucolic picture of gentle privilege to continuously and subtly inform the dialogue of Vaughan Williams' life and work, gradually creating a full look on firm ground of a thoroughly cosmopolitan composer.

The discussions of VW's compositions are exceptionally competent and always evocative. Heffer' reach is impressive - from VW's undramatic beginnings as a composer, his constant affection for and lavish attention to the English hymn tune, his musical study with Ravel and its effect on his work, through to the daring influence of blues and jazz found in his symphonies, notably the use of vibraphones that inform the beguiling Eighth.

This book is a great deal like VW's music itself - profound and gentle, inspiring and intimate. Recommended over other more lengthy biographies of VW, length not always equalling depth of treatment in these matters. In this important little book, the two aspects combine in perfect conformity to the living testament that is VW's music itself. This book is a full, revealing look at a composer who spent his creative life conjuring manifold beauty and nurturing his unique gifts with the uncommon genius of steady, humane purpose. The appendix of select discography with incisive commentary is also useful especially for those not that familiar with VW's music.
An excellent starting point July 4 2015
By Dizwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For me, getting to know a composer's works first begins with getting to know the broad-brush outlines of a composer's life. And Simon Heffer's biography does that broad-brush work exceptionally well. Yes, at some point, I'm going to have to read Ursula Vaughan Willams' "authorised" biography, since that is the Holy Gospel of VW biography... but in the meantime, anyone wanting to get more familiar with VW's output will find this an excellent introduction to the subject. It gives you the framework around which to build an understanding, so that without getting bogged down in the minutiae of a life, you nevertheless learn the important signposts of it: the Tallis Fantasia was pre-war, The Pastoral Symphony post-war and so on. At the end, you'll know the shape of his life, and be able to fill things out with the more detailed reads mentioned by another poster here. But this is as good a starting point as any. (I am reminded, ironically enough, of how Michael Kennedy's biography of Britten got me started on a lifetime's appreciation of Britten's music, despite it being written so early after his death that it clearly cannot have benefited from the voluminous quantities of subsequent Britten scholarship: it was nevertheless a great way to get started on a subject and I am thankful to have read. I get exactly the same sense reading this "beginner's guide to RVW").

Heffer writes clearly and his critiques (and explanations) of individual works are nicely informed and (it seems to me) soundly based. At the end of it, I definitely felt I had a better understanding of Vaughan Williams as a man -and a much better appreciation of his music, too. And I can't think of two better reasons for writing a biography of a composer -or of buying it.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Nothing that you can't find anywhere else. May 5 2010
By Steve Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you've already read Michael Kennedy's Life and Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams or Ursula Vaughan Williams's R.V.W., you can skip this. It is little more than an expanded encyclopedia entry and the stuff that isn't is problematic. Heffer's an enthusiastic amateur, with either little or no musical training. That may even count as an advantage in a work for the general reader. However, it gets him in trouble when he renders critical judgments, which tend to sound like he's gotten them from others' reviews. He certainly doesn't build much of a case in support. An ordinary book about an extraordinary composer.
I think this is a great book for one who wants analysis of Vaughan William's ... Aug. 15 2015
By Margaret W. Gosfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this is a great book for one who wants analysis of Vaughan William's music; I was looking for a biography of the man in addition to his music.

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