Vaughan Williams vulgarity?

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Vaughan Williams vulgarity?

In the July issue of Gramophone (p.24) Philip Kennicott discussing Leonard Slatkin’s RVW cycle writes ‘He makes complicated passages sound smart and effortless, but pumps up VW’s vulgarity to a ridiculous degree.’

 

VW’s vulgarity? Really? In the symphonies?

 

Could Philip Kennicott expand on what he meant? Anyone else struck by this comment?

 

RE: Vaughan Williams vulgarity?

Are we back to the tuba discussion?

Maybe P.K. was one of those who fled the premiere of Tudor Portraits in disgust.

RE: Vaughan Williams vulgarity?

Symphonia wrote:

In the July issue of Gramophone (p.24) Philip Kennicott discussing Leonard Slatkin’s RVW cycle writes ‘He makes complicated passages sound smart and effortless, but pumps up VW’s vulgarity to a ridiculous degree.’

VW’s vulgarity? Really? In the symphonies?

Could Philip Kennicott expand on what he meant?

If he meant 'vulgarity' in the sense of "Belonging to the ordinary or common class in the community" (OED Online), then that would be ok. (The derogatory meaning of 'vulgar' is only one of fourteen given.)

After all, as Vaughan Williams's wrote in his book 'National Music' -

"Music is above all things the art of the common man … the art of the humble….What the ordinary man will expect from the composer is not cleverness, or persiflage, or an assumed vulgarity … he will want something that will open to him the 'magic casements.' … The art of music above all other arts is the expression of the soul of a nation … any community of people who are spiritually bound together by language, environment, history and common ideals, and, above all, a continuity with the past.

Presumably what RVW meant by "assumed vulgarity" was that the composer shouldn't pretend to be 'of the people' - rather, his (or her) music should genuinely and honestly express the 'common ideals'.

So, I don't think it's necessarily an insult to describe VW's music - symphonies or otherwise - as 'vulgar', just so long as what's meant is what VW was aiming for. 

But what Philip Kennicott actually meant is something only he can really explain.

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

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