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First Recording: Vaughn Williams – Serenade for Music

By February 14, 2018March 20th, 2018No Comments

First Recording: Vaughn Williams – Serenade for Music

I am just placing a link to the music and a link to the Wikipedia page describing the first recording of this piece.  The soloists were very famous singers of the day, including Dame Eva Turner, who was a dramatic soprano.  The Wikipedia page will tell you who is singing which phrase (see the the initials inserted into the text below) and will give you more background.  I urge you to listen to this.  It may make you cry.

The youtube link is :

The wikipage link is :


The text is an adaptation of the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Vaughan Williams later arranged the piece into versions for chorus and orchestra and solo violin and orchestra. It is approximately 13 minutes in duration.

In arranging Shakespeare’s text, Vaughan Williams followed the word order, but cut words, phrases, and whole lines, and repeated at the end eleven words from the third and fourth lines, producing the following text. The initials mark the singers’ solo passages; ensemble passages are shown in italics:

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches IB of sweet harmony.
HN Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
FT There’s not the smallest orb that thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
WW Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
PJ But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
SA Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,
And draw her home with music.
ES I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
RE The reason is, your spirits are attentive –
HW The man that hath no music in himself,
RH Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
RE Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
NA The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trustedMBr Music! hark!
It is your music of the house.
AD Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
MJ Silence bestows that virtue on it
ET How many things by season season’d are
To their right praise and true perfection!
MBa Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awak’d. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches IB of sweet harmony.