Selections from "Songs of Travel" - Ralph Vaughan Williams

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Ralph Vaughan Williams
Anton Belov, Lydia Brown
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

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Songs of Travel is a song cycle of nine songs originally written for baritone voice composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with poems drawn from the Robert Louis Stevenson collection Songs of Travel and Other Verses. A complete performance of the entire cycle lasts between 20 and 24 minutes.

They were originally written for voice and piano. Vaughan Williams orchestrated the first, third, and eighth songs, and his assistant Roy Douglas later orchestrated the remaining songs using the same instrumentation. The orchestral version has often been recorded, but not always with Douglas acknowledged as its co-orchestrator.

The full version is composed of:

1. "The Vagabond"
2. "Let Beauty Awake"
3. "The Roadside Fire"
4. "Youth and Love"
5. "In Dreams"
6. "The Infinite Shining Heavens"
7. "Whither Must I Wander"
8. "Bright Is the Ring of Words"
9. "I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope" (only to be performed to conclude the nine-song cycle)

All of the songs in the cycle exist in at least two keys, as all of the songs were transposed upwards to create a version for tenor voice.

About the songs

Written between 1901 and 1904, the Songs of Travel represent Vaughan Williams's first major foray into song-writing. Drawn from a volume of Robert Louis Stevenson poems of the same name, the cycle offers a quintessentially British take on the "wayfarer cycle". A world-weary yet resolute individual—Stevenson's and Vaughan Williams's traveller—shows neither the naivety of Schubert's miller in Die schöne Müllerin nor the destructive impulses of the heroes of Schubert's Winterreise and Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.

Eight of the songs were first performed in London in 1904. Although they were performed as a complete cycle, the publishers refused to accept the songs as a whole group. The songs were published in 2 books separated by 2 years. Neither volume included "Whither Must I Wander". The 9th song, "I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope", was published after Vaughan Williams's death, when his wife, Ursula Vaughan Williams, found it among his papers.
The text above is offered by courtesy of Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Classical music piece performed by: Anton Belov, baritone; Lydia Brown, piano
Licensed by: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Music license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Painting: Danger by Winslow Homer
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Classical music piece ID: HDCM0827

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