Broadcasting on ‘The Composer in Wartime’ in 1940, Vaughan Williams suggested that composers should write works for ‘combinations of all manner of instruments which might be played by people whiling away the waiting-hours of war’. He followed his own advice by composing in 1940/41 Household Music
: Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes
for string quartet, but he said that instead of strings there could be oboe, clarinet, flute, saxophone or cornet, or other equivalents at different pitches: bassoon, bass clarinet, recorder, B flat saxophone and euphonium. He also made an arrangement for medium-sized orchestra. The first performance, on 4 October 1941, was given in Wigmore Hall by the Blech String Quartet. The hymn tunes are ‘Crug-y-bar’, ‘St Denio’ and ‘Aberystwyth’ (eight variations on Joseph Parry’s tune). The scherzo on ‘St Denio’ is particularly engaging but the three melodies are all affectionately treated.
from notes by Michael Kennedy © 2002