Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending often tops polls of the nation’s favourite piece of classical music. It is, of course, almost always heard in its scoring for solo violin and orchestra: however, a new recording will allow listeners to hear the piece in its original arrangement, for violin and piano accompaniment.

Vaughan Williams completed this first version in 1914, but the outbreak of war meant that the work was not performed until 1920. The composer then rearranged it for solo violin and orchestra after the war. This version was first performed in 1921, and is now the most familiar arrangement of The Lark Ascending.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’ birth (12 October, 2022), violinist Hyeyoon Park and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor have now released a new version of the original arrangement for solo violin and piano.

You can see the duo performing The Lark Ascending in the clip below:

The Lark Ascending was inspired by George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name, a paean to the flight and song of the skylark. The piece exemplifies the composer’s signature pastoral, folk-inspired style, capturing the skylark’s ascent in music.

Hyeyoon Park says, 'While this arrangement was actually written by Vaughan Williams before the familiar version with orchestra, it sounds to our ears like a transcription. With the timbre of the piano, it is somehow like a black and white photograph – creating new perspectives and different atmospheres.'

The violinist also describes her quest to witness the the natural phenomenon that inspired the work: the song of the skylark.

'I had the happy fortune to do so on a long Kentish walk in June over the Jubilee weekend. When I was starting to get tired, I took a rest in a vast field. There was a trill-like, piercing song and as I looked up, a small bird was ascending level by level while maintaining an elaborate cry.

'When it reached a great height – remarkable for such a small bird – it hovered freely, as if finally unfettered after the arduous climb and fond of the view of its little kingdom. This sequence of images has been imprinted on my mind and definitely inspired my interpretation of this piece.'

You can also listen to the recording on your preferred streaming platform at https://grosvenorandpark.lnk.to/LarkAscendingID


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.