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Elegiac Meditation, Op 83

composer
1946/7

 
Dedicated to the viola player Jean Stewart, to whom Vaughan Williams also inscribed his Second String Quartet (‘to Jean on her birthday’), this intensely felt music for viola and strings is prefaced by two lines from Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ from the Lyrical Ballads of 1798:

Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

It was probably written in 1946–7, and from its manner and notably dark, wistful tone, and the motto, one presumes it to be the composer’s meditation on the losses of six years of war, or could it be he is thinking of his dead son, Barnaby? The score was published by OUP in 1951 and first performed by the dedicatee with the Newbury String Orchestra conducted by Finzi at Christmas 1947, and again in November 1952. Here we see a new depth in Milford, as he finds a remarkable intensity in his soaring viola, exploring an angst never resolved. The music’s eloquence is reinforced by the soloist’s long-spun bitter-sweet lyrical line, its impact being heightened by the rich and varied scoring for the string orchestra which constantly underlines the passion. The closing bars are shadowed, the orchestral strings, now muted, quietly play again the music of the opening, but the soloist has not found repose and the work ends with acceptance rather than resolution.

from notes by Lewis Foreman 2004

Recordings

Milford: Fishing by Moonlight
Studio Master: CDA67444Last few CD copies remainingStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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