25 Apr 2015

Curtain Raiser: Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

From the collecton Curtain Raiser
First page of Tallis Fantasia score

First page of Tallis Fantasia score Photo: Public Domain


The 'Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis' was composed in 1910 and Vaughan Williams himself conducted the première in September that year under the gothic vaults of Gloucester Cathedral, as part of the famous Three Choirs Festival.

When his fellow composer Herbert Howells first heard this music he was so overwhelmed that he couldn't sleep and paced the streets of Gloucester all night, reeling from the work's profound impact. 

Perhaps the reason the 'Tallis Fantasia' had such a striking effect on Howells was that he realised he shared with Vaughan Williams a powerful desire to connect with the music of the past.

Indra Hughes explores the background to this much-loved work.

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