THE DISCOVERY OF A CAMBRIDGE MASS
Alan Tongue writes: I came across Vaughan Williams’ exercise for the Cambridge D. Mus. in the University Library in Cambridge in 2007. Immediately I was bowled over by the characterful themes, the rich counterpoint and the great variety in the work. It had clearly never been performed, judging by the number of mistakes. I soon obtained permission from the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust to transcribe the work and quickly realized here was a masterpiece, not an academic exercise. There was no title to the work, so it soon became known as A CAMBRIDGE MASS. The work is now published by Stainer & Bell.
The original score
Vaughan Williams was required to follow these instructions
in writing the Mass:
That the Exercise be a composition on a sacred or a secular subject, written for the occasion; that it should occupy not less than forty nor more than sixty minutes in performance, and fulfil the following conditions:
a) That it comprise some portion for one or more solo voices, and some considerable portion for a chorus of eight real vocal parts.
b) That it comprise some specimens of Canon and of Fugue.
c) That it comprise an instrumental Overture, or an Interlude, in the form of the first movement of a Symphony or a Sonata.
d) That the whole (except some single piece be for Voices alone) have an accompaniment for a full Band.
Alan Tongue presents the score to Michael Kennedy and Hugh Cobbe of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.
THE WORLD PREMIèRE
The world première took place at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. The Bach Choir and the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra took part, under Alan Tongue’s direction, and the soloists were Olivia Robinson, Rebecca Lodge, Christopher Bowen and Edward Price.
Rehersal with Bach Choir
The Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph awarded the concert 4 stars, The Times and The Guardian 3 stars.
A selection from reviews:
‘A vision rescued from oblivion...the first ever outing of Vaughan Williams’s Cambridge Mass had extraordinary moments...how strongly VW’s personality emerges. There’s a rugged refusal of sentimentality, combined with a visionary quality’
Ivan Hewitt, Daily Telegraph
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‘...qualities that are unmistakeably RVW: a boldness of declamation, striding bass lines that suggest a vigorous ramble, deft handling of large forces, and sympathetic treatment of voices, (including a solo quartet). The spirit of the future giant is there, even if his unique language is as yet unformed.’
Richard Morrison, The Times
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‘Vaughan Williams’s rediscovered work is a rich, rewarding treat ... It shows as clearly as anything what the composer was capable of before he found his personal, “open air” voice...the writing for double chorus is often rich, and some harmonies in the Sanctus are daring for English choral works of the time... the gentle swagger of the purely orchestral Offertorium, a very accomplished piece of writing that deserves to stand alone in its own,
John Allison, Sunday Telegraph
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‘Great fun and highly enjoyable, full of good tunes and dramatic sonic juxtapositions. It’s big, it’s ambitious.’
Christopher Webber, Zarzuela
The concert was recorded, and the work is now available on Albion Records
BATH CHORAL SOCIETY WITH LONDON GALA ORCHESTRA BATH ABBEY, OCTOBER 2011
‘…it is a work of pleasing contrasts, full of warmth. This was a fascinating blend of orchestral sound, brisk, full-bodied… it is a fascinating piece which will attract choirs everywhere… we also had an absolutely sumptuous Schubert 8… and a most exquisite Lark Ascending…’
Peter Lloyd Williams, Bath Chronicle
US PREMIERE: HAMPSHIRE CHORAL SOCIETY NORTHAMPTON, MASS. JANUARY 2012
‘…a triumph for all concerned. including the large audience that capped the work with a rousing ovation… by giving us a starting point for our assessment of Vaughan Williams’s development, the Cambridge Mass serves a valuable purpose… and with their scrupulously prepared excitingly performed premiere yesterday, the Hampshire Choral Society did the composer justice, and gave themselves, and the community something to crow about… Well done!’
John Montanari, WFCR & WHNZ