Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Water Mill, song for voice & piano (Poems by Fredegond Shove No. 4)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This is the last of the four songs that make up the Vaughan Williams set, Four Poems by Fredegond Shove. Shove (1889 - 1949) was a rather obscure poet and niece of Adeline Fisher, the composer's first wife. "The Water Mill" is the only song in the collection that is lively and largely upbeat in mood, the others ranging from gloomy ("Motion and Stillness") to celestial but mysterious ("Four Nights") to ghostly ("The New Ghost").

    "The Water Mill" is a perky and colorful song, and even manages to veer into a sort of hearty brand of Impressionism in capturing images of the busy mill wheel and splashing water. The text is somewhat less sunny and cheerful in its descriptions: 'There is a mill, an ancient one/Brown with rain and dry with sun." Nevertheless, Vaughan Williams converts its rust into shiny steel, its grays into beaming yellows, with bouncy rhythms, a vibrant, playful vocal line, and a mood, if not of complete elation, then of busy joy. He even shows a folk-like manner here, when the vocalist turns nearly ecstatic, jauntily singing, 'The miller's cat is a tabby...." If this song has a weakness, it is in the piano's almost unrelenting rhythmic figures, meant to depict the spinning of the mill wheel. Still, this is not a major deficit, and the song must be counted as an overall success.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2011 Decca
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996893
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920663
    2004 Naxos 8557559-60
    2003 Naxos 8557114
    2002 Dutton Laboratories 9723
    2000 EtCetera Records 1078
    1998 BELART 4500202
    1996 Collins Records 14882
    1994 Universal Distribution 4500202
    1992 Nimbus Records 5033
    CRD Records 3473
    Classic CD 80