Ralph Vaughn Williams – Variations on “Dives and Lazarus”
October 1872 – August 1958
His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including 9 symphonies, written over nearly fifty years. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk-song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century. Among the best-known British symphonists, noted for his very wide range of moods, from stormy and impassioned to tranquil, from mysterious to exuberant.
Five Variants of `Dives and Lazarus’ is based on a folk-carol where Lazarus is begging food from Dives. Composed in 1938, it is Vaughan Williams at his best. The composition is based on the folk tune “Dives and Lazarus”, one of the folk songs quoted in Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite.
Vaughan Williams composed the work on commission from the British Council to be played at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.
Fun Fact: In 1917 Vaughan Williams was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, seeing action in France beginning in March 1918. The continual noise of the guns damaged his hearing, and led to deafness in his later years.