Which classical pieces are most widely beloved?
It’s Ralph Vaughan Williams for the win. After 110,000 votes, Classic FM compiled their 2019 Hall of Fame Top 300 list of our favourite classical pieces. Reigning at Number One? Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.
It’s a piece that Vaughan Williams initially composed for violin with piano in 1914, with revisions and war delaying the first performance until 1920. On June 14th, 1921 in London, audiences saw The Lark Ascending performed by violin and orchestra.
Vaughan Williams’ Lark was inspired by English folk songs and British author George Meredith’s poem of the same name. You’ll find excerpts from the beginning, middle and end of Meredith’s Lark inscribed at the top of Vaughan Williams’ score.
Vaughan Williams’ Excerpts from:
The Lark Ascending
By George Meredith
‘He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.’
‘For singing till his heaven fills,
’Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes.’
‘Till lost on his aërial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.’
Vaughan Williams has a second piece in the 2019 Hall of Fame Top 10; Tchaikovsky has three. But, across all of the Top 300 pieces, it is Beethoven who comes out with the most votes for a single composer: The Emperor Piano Concerto sits at #6, The Choral Symphony at #8. Twenty-one Beethoven pieces adorn the list as a whole. Sad day for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who – even with his mighty impressive 19 top pieces and his long history of poll domination – is jettisoned into second place by Ludwig.
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Painted by Sir Gerald Kelly
2019 Classic FM Hall of Fame Top 10
i. The Lark Ascending. Ralph Vaughan Williams
ii. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. Sergei Rachmaninoff
iii. Enigma Variations (Includes Nimrod). Edward Elgar
iv. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Ralph Vaughan Williams
v. 1812 Overture Opus 49. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
vi. Piano Concerto No 5. in E Flat Major. Opus 73 (The Emperor)
vii. Swan Lake. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
viii. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor Opus 125. Choral
ix. The Nutcracker, Opus 71. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
x. Clarinet Concerto in A Major K622. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Here’s violinist Colin Jacobsen performing The #1 Lark Ascending in the abandoned Palace theatre in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It’s a 3700 seat space built in 1922, one year after the first orchestral performance of Vaughan William’s beloved piece. Jacobsen is directed by his Music Director brother, Eric Jacobsen and accompanied by the Greater Bridgeport Symphony.
Header: The Pic-Nic Orchestra: James Gilray. April 23, 1802