When was the first performance, recording, broadcast and Proms performance of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending?
A guide to The Lark Ascending, Vaughan Williams's much-loved work for violin and orchestra
This performance at London’s Queen’s Hall in June 1921, featuring Marie Hall with the British Symphony Orchestra, was the start of Adrian Boult’s long association with The Lark Ascending. The British conductor went on to programme it for decades afterwards, each performance faithfully recorded in his score. He conducted the first performance of Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony in 1922 and thereafter his championing of Vaughan Williams’s music never faltered.
No soloist was named for this scheduled The Lark Ascending performance for the BBC Cardiff radio station, but it may have been the all-but-forgotten Leonard Busfield. Busfield was active on the Cardiff network and named as soloist for a Lark broadcast the following year with the station orchestra. Billed as conductor for this 1924 performance was the young New Zealand-born Warwick Braithwaite.
First commercial recording
Released on HMV in 1928 with the ‘Orch’ conducted by Malcolm Sargent, this is a vigorous, direct rendering likely affected by time constraints on 78rpm discs. Sussex-born Menges had German roots. She performed widely in the UK, but the international dimension to her career was mainly focused on the celebrated Menges String Quartet. Menges gave an early performance of The Lark Ascending outside the UK – in Switzerland, in 1933.
First Proms performance
‘Miss Marie Wilson played with the right repose’, was how The Times understatedly described her role in this BBC Proms premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Henry Wood at the Queen’s Hall in September 1934, as part of an all- Vaughan Williams concert. Wilson led the BBC Symphony Orchestra on many occasions, benefiting from Henry Wood’s championing of women orchestral players. She enjoyed an extensive career as a soloist and chamber music player.