Gustav holst

Vaughan Williams’s genius is now beyond dispute

Classical music plays hell with people’s posthumous reputations, as any admirer of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams will tell you. In 1972, on the centenary of his birth, ample respects were shown. Not only were there special concerts of his music but the Post Office, which is now more focused on commemorating gay pride, issued a stamp. Since the composer’s death in 1958 he and his works had gone into an eclipse, not least because of the atonalists who controlled the Third Programme and many of our concert halls. These were people who believed the British music-loving public should be fed on a diet of what Kathleen Ferrier called

Community music-making is the jewel in the British crown

Music is a universal language. The style that has enraptured me since childhood, classical music, has always had an international dimension, and has taken me around the world in the decades since. But even in those early boyhood encounters I became aware of music and musicians from many different lands and eras. Apart from the beauty and excitement of the music itself, the art form became an early gateway for me to languages, history, geography, philosophy, theology and much more. There were clearly a lot of Germans to grapple with (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms) — and some French (Debussy, Ravel) —as well as Italians (Vivaldi, Verdi) and lots of Russians too