To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ birth, the BBC Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras are collaborating on a festival named after the cantata Toward the Unknown Region. Built around a complete symphony cycle featuring conductors including Sir Mark Elder, John Wilson and Sir Andrew Davis, the festival begins on 26 February with Mark Wigglesworth conducting the BBC Philharmonic in the thirds and fifth symphonies, together with the orchestral song cycle On Wenlock Edge. Full details of the festival can be found here.
Writing about Vaughan Williams’ Third Symphony in his guide of the 50 Greatest Symphonies Tom Service states: “throughout this symphony there’s a disturbing doubleness, in which images and ideas that are usually thought to provide consolation instead suggest emotional instability and ambiguity. The pastoral title is, I think, almost ironic, since what Vaughan Williams is doing in this piece is turning the idea on its head, so that instead of being a source of comfort, this pastoral is instead a confrontation with loss, with lament, with death. And it’s also a genuinely adventurous attempt to write a kind of symphony that no-one had attempted so completely before…”