Ralph Vaughan Williams

Vocalise for soprano & clarinet No. 3 ("Quasi menuetto")

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This is the last vocalise in a set that lasts about five minutes in performance. Written in the final year of Vaughan Williams' life, this piece and its two siblings divulge nothing of gloom, nothing that might suggest a preoccupation with death. The composer remained active until the end of his life and generally held to optimism in the expressive character of his works.

    This Quasi menuetto vocalise is marked Moderato, and does not feature much that would call to mind minuet the title suggests. It is flowing and lyrical in the main theme of the soprano, yet also somewhat emotionally detached -- but without becoming ethereal in mood, like the first vocalise and so many other vocal works by this composer. (Examples are furnished by most of the songs in the cycle Along the Field, written in 1927 and revised in 1954). The clarinet sings here, too, but more playfully, and then introduces a bouncy second subject, which the vocalist later takes up. The piece, in the end, is a mixture of moods, less one-sided than both the haunting first vocalise and the lively, witty second.