The Passions of Vaughan Williams (DVD)

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Documentary by John Bridcut

In this musical and psychological portrait of Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Bridcut reveals the passions that drove the giant of 20th century English music. He explores the enormous musical range of an energetic, red-blooded composer whose output extends well beyond the delicate pastoralism of one of his most famous pieces, The Lark Ascending. This feature-length documentary tells the story of his fifty-year marriage to his increasingly disabled wife Adeline, and his long affair with the woman who eventually became his second wife, Ursula. The effect of these complicated relationships on Vaughan Williams' music is demonstrated in specially-filmed performances of his orchestral and choral works. Among the contributors is Ursula Vaughan Williams herself, who was interviewed shortly before her death at the age of 96. Other contributors to the film include Michael Kennedy, Anthony Payne, Christopher Finzi, Simona Pakenham, Hugh Cobbe, Robert Tear, Miles Vaughan Williams, Nicola LeFanu, Byron Adams and Jeremy Dale Roberts. Performances are given by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by the late Richard Hickox, with Rachel Roberts (viola) and Alistair Mackie (trumpet); Schola Cantorum of Oxford, conducted by James Burton; and Ruth Peel (mezzo-soprano) and David Owen Norris (pianoforte).

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The Observer

"Bridcut’s primary gift is to bring the music of these composers alive, weaving archive footage with specially filmed performance and deft contributions from a handful of musicians well able to knock down all the myths and prejudices. These commentators are passionate as well as scholarly...These invaluable films make you rethink the music. They are, too, engrossing to watch."