On this day in classical music: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Symphony No. 5” received its premiere by the London Philharmonic in 1943. The best known of the British composer’s nine symphonies, the fifth features musical themes drawn from his opera “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” It is dedicated to Jean Sibelius. Listen to the “Romanza” movement from Vaughan Williams’ “Symphony No. 5.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AP_desQX68
On this day in the musical theatre: The musical bio “Lovemusik” closed on Broadway after a 60-performance run in 2007. Based on the lives of composer Kurt Weill and his wife Lotte Lenya, “Lovemusik” spanned 25 years, from their first meeting to Weill’s death at age 50. Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy, the distinguished actors who played the noted couple, both earned Tony Award nominations for their roles. Watch a trailer from the 2007 Broadway production. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0x1whl5coQ
Musical musings: Buoyed by his overriding interest in British folk music, Vaughan Williams started writing scores that he hoped would spearhead a national movement. Two of them — the three “Norfolk Rhapsodies” and “In the Fen Country” — attracted a great deal of attention in 1906 and 1907 respectively. But Vaughan Williams felt that he needed more study and decided to take some lessons with, of all people, Maurice Ravel. “In 1908, I came to the conclusion that I was bumpy and stodgy, had come to a dead end, and that a little French polish would be of use to me.” Off he went to Paris — a big, stout bearlike man, dressed with cheerful sloppiness (Vaughan Williams always dressed “as though stalking the folk song to its lair,” someone once remarked) — to confront the tiny, dandified Ravel, who did not know exactly what to make of the invader. He looked at some of Vaughan Williams’ music and told him to write a little minuet in the style of Mozart. Vaughan Williams met this head-on. “Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart.” Ravel guided Vaughan Williams away from “the heavy contrapuntal Teutonic manner.” After Ravel, Vaughan Williams considered his musical education complete. – From The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg.