Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Lark Ascending, romance for violin & orchestra

    Description by Mark Satola

    The Lark Ascending is a relatively simple piece -- its musical discourse is plainly and easily perceived; yet at its heart is an emotional profundity that links it with other works by Vaughan Williams from the same period, in which a calm, almost detached pastoral approach is used to convey great feeling. Vaughan Williams completed The Lark Ascending in 1914 for violinist Marie Hall, with whom he consulted on the solo part. After a thorough revision in 1920, she first played it in a violin-piano arrangement in Shirehampton Public Hall in December 1920. The first performance of the orchestral version was in London, at a Queen's Hall concert in June, 1921, during the second Congress of British Music Society.

    Verses from George Meredith's poem "The Lark Ascending" precede this evocative tone painting, describing the unique circling ascent of the lark, accompanied by its long-breathed, rhapsodic song. The writing for the violin mimics the "silver chain of sound...In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake" described by Meredith, though of course it also carries the main melodic argument. A brief cadence of soft chords from winds and strings discreetly usher in the first flight of the soloist, who rhapsodizes without accompaniment on a folk-like theme of considerable plasticity. The orchestra then quietly enters, and the first theme is developed organically until the section closes with a reprise of the solo cadenza.

    A more straightforward folk theme on woodwinds begins the middle section, which has been likened to the pastoral countryside over which the lark soars; the violin's free descant over the orchestra certainly underscores that impression. A magical moment ensues when solo woodwinds evoke a panoply of birdsong under the busy rustling of the violin; the effect is like a choir of birds led by the virtuoso lark. Vaughan Williams would achieve a similar effect in Jane Scroop: Her Lament for Philip Sparrow from his 1935 choral suite Five Tudor Portraits. A note of sadness and nostalgia informs the reprise of the first section, and the piece ends with one more cadenza from the violin, whose song circles ever higher into the upper reaches of the instrument until it more disappears than ends; as quoted from Meredith, "Till lost on his aerial rings / In light, and then the fancy sings."

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Chandos ANNI 0040
    2018 Classic FM
    2018 Classic FM / Decca CFMD 61
    2018 ABC Classics 4817624
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 ABC Classics
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Challenge Classics CC 72793
    2018 Onyx Classics ONYX 4185
    2017 ABC Classics
    2017 Classic FM / Decca CFMD 52
    2017 ABC Classics 5761568
    2017 Signum Classics SIGCD 486
    2016 ABC Classics ABC 4812522
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796220
    2016 Sony Classical 88985357702
    2016 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186536
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795983
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646480401
    2016 Sony Classical 88985357942
    2016 Decca 4789386 DH
    2016 Decca
    2016 Naxos 8573530
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 4822433
    2015 ABC Classics 4811143
    2015 Sony Music CDNNNOW 37
    2015 Linn / Linn Records CKD 520
    2015 Classic FM 4812034
    2015 Edition Classics EDN 1058
    2014 100 Hits / Demon DMG100 129
    2014 Naxos 857828182
    2014 Classic FM / Decca CFMD 34
    2014 Albion ALBCD 018
    2014 ASO Media ASO 1005
    2014 Signum Classics SIGCD 399
    2013 Decca CDNNNOW 9
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca
    2013 Chandos CHAN 10796
    2013 Decca B 001912002
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca 4785692
    2012 Classic FM
    2012 Decca
    2012 Warner Classics 671454
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099932735
    2012 Melba Recordings MR 301131
    2012 Classic FM / Decca CFMD 23
    2012 Sony Classical 88765412002
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Warner Music
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968052621
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Apex
    2011 EMI / EMI Gold 0952802
    2011 Hallé CDHLD 7532
    2011 Mood Media Entertainment 56931
    2011 Avie AV 2194
    2011 Decca B0015535-02
    2011 Decca
    2011 ABC Classics ABC 4805901
    2011 Collins Classics RET0008
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963160
    2010 Decca 4782589
    2010 Decca
    2010 Naxos 8570364
    2010 Sony Classical 88697707282
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 EMI Classics 5099962791
    2010 Warner Classics
    2009 Decca 12940
    2009 Decca
    2009 Universal Classics / Classic FM / Universal Distribution CFMD8
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969758
    2009 Decca 4781484
    2009 Sheridan Square Records 28360
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921750
    2008 Naxos 8572080
    2008 Telarc Distribution 80738
    2008 Simax 1832
    2008 Sony Music Distribution 729035
    2008 RCA Red Seal 722378
    2008 Naxos 8556835
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920799
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920663
    2007 Gia 685
    2007 The Relaxation Company 963004
    2007 Gia 681
    2007 Gramophone
    2007 EMI Classics 5034172
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 LPO 97
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Classics 4766198
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 508309
    2007 RPO 204431-201
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Universal / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Chandos CHAN2028
    2006 Hallé 7512
    2006 Warner Classics 4696593
    2006 Apex 0927495842
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000769702
    2005 Telarc CD 80635
    2005 Gramophone
    2005 Virgin Classics 82046
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Chandos CHAN241-28
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 35177
    2005 Decca 000491802
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 4748732
    2004 Virgin VTDCD 642
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 010
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585151
    2004 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243586026
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62814
    2003 The Relaxation Company 3000
    2003 The Relaxation Company 3004
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2003 London/Decca / Decca 0001496
    2003 London/Decca / Decca 000200902
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 469 376-2
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon
    2002 EMI Music Distribution / Phantom Import Distribution 557330
    2002 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 57330
    2002 ASV 8520
    2002 Telarc Distribution 80138
    2001 Decca
    2001 Decca / Universal Distribution 470237
    2001 Spring Hill Music 56031
    2001 CBC Records 5176
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 574782-2
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 4395292
    2000 Naxos 555293
    2000 Dutton Laboratories 9703
    2000 The Relaxation Company 3040
    2000 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243573986
    2000 Teldec 84070
    2000 Angel Records 61763
    2000 Phoenix USA 145
    2000 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 73924
    2000 Decca 466945
    2000 RCA 63676
    1999 Nimbus NI1754
    1999 The Relaxation Company 3042
    1999 Intersound 1763
    1999 Intersound 1764
    1999 Chandos 9775
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 573 538-2
    1999 Argo 440116
    1999 Decca 460 357-2DF2
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 56413
    1998 Carlton Classics 3036801097
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon / PolyGram 453909
    1998 Collins Records 16092
    1998 Virgin 46333
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 73106
    1998 Intersound 2836
    1998 Warner Music 4221252
    1997 Warner Classics
    1997 Naxos 8 553509
    1997 EMI Music Distribution CD-CFP6023
    1997 London 452 707-2DF2
    1997 London 455612
    1997 Naxos 8 553955
    1997 Teldec 17047
    1996 Teldec 34703
    1996 RCA 23041
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62645
    1996 Collins Records 11402
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 55487
    1996 Carlton 6600132
    1995 Chandos CHAN7008
    1995 Dutton Laboratories 8012
    1995 EMI Classics
    1994 Celestial Harmonies 1835502
    1994 Erato / Virgin 7243561126
    1994 Nimbus NI 7009
    1994 RCA 09026 61700-2
    1994 Chandos 9262
    1993 ASV 779
    1993 Arabesque 6568
    1992 Celestial Harmonies 14052
    1992 Nimbus 5210/13
    1992 London 433085
    1992 Chandos 8554
    1991 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777764022
    1991 Decca 430 093-2DWO
    1991 Teldec 73127
    1990 Argo 414595
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 62018
    1990 Nimbus NI5208
    K/S Records 1
    Warner Classics
    Aguava
    Chandos CHAN6611
    EMI Music Distribution 574880
    Deutsche Grammophon 000302602
    Teldec 96231
    EMI Music Distribution 62527
    ASV 6023
    ASV QS-6023
    In Classical Mood 12029
    EMI Music Distribution 68572
    LPO 21
    ABC Classics 4766209
    ABC Classics 4800254
    ABC Classics 4800261
    ABC Classics 4766210
    ASV 518
    EMI Music Distribution 66348
    HMV Classics 568484
    Stradivari 8011
    Vox 8736