Alone among major British composers of the twentieth century, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, having studied the instrument with Walter Parratt at the Royal College of Music and Alan Gray at Cambridge. In 1899, after a brief period as a church organist, he abandoned the organ-loft, but in the years immediately following the First World War he turned to the instrument again and wrote the well-known preludes on Welsh hymn-tunes (published in 1920) and the Prelude and Fugue in C minor. Although the latter dates from 1920–21, it was not published until 1930, when it appeared both as an orchestral work and as an organ piece. The ritornello-form first movement calls to mind the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV546 of J S Bach. The fugue is in A–B–A form and based on a subject whose pentatonic outline seems like an augury of gentle pastoralism; but both movements display a gritty, truculent brand of counterpoint that anticipates the dissonance and fury of Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No 4 in F minor, the composition of which spanned the years 1931–4.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2009