The Passions of Vaughan Williams

2008   BBC Four

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The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams ranges far beyond the folksy and the pastoral.  The hidden story of his long affair with Ursula Wood reveals a composer of enormous energy and passion, and opens the way to a reappraisal of his music.

This psychological profile of Vaughan Williams contains specially-filmed performances of his work by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by the late Richard Hickox, with Rachel Roberts (viola) and Alistair Mackie (trumpet).  It also features Schola Cantorum of Oxford, conducted by James Burton, and Ruth Peel (mezzo soprano) and David Owen Norris (pianoforte).  Contributors include: Michael Kennedy, Anthony Payne, Christopher Finzi, Simona Pakenham, Hugh Cobbe, Robert Tear, Miles Vaughan Williams, Nicola LeFanu, Byron Adams and Jeremy Dale Roberts.  The film is a co-production between Crux Productions and Firefly (now Dragonfly Productions), 1 x 90’.

Musical extracts from: Symphonies 8 & 4 / Rondel / Down Ampney / A Sea Symphony / Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis / A London Symphony / Dona Nobis Pacem / A Pastoral Symphony / Symphonies 9 & 6 / Three Shakespeare Songs / Mr Isaac’s Maggot  / Flos Campi / Partita / Job / Serenade to Music / Hugh the Drover / Symphony 5 / Dives and Lazarus / Silence & Music / Tired


Photography Dirk Nel, Jonathan Partridge
Sound Paul Paragon, Bob Withey, Patrick Boland
Dubbing Mixer Rowan Jennings
Production Manager Mandy Skelton
Thanks to Stephen Connock
Assistant Producer Caroline Page
Executive Producer Magnus Temple
Film Editor Samuel Santana
Written, narrated & directed by John Bridcut

The Crux DVD of this film is available through the Crux online shop, or from Gonzo Multimedia


'Take that title seriously.  John Bridcut’s sizzling documentary reveals Ralph the impulsive heartbreaker… Here, his life story is a thrilling drama with a heart-pounding soundtrack: the music and gossip balance and illuminate each other perfectly as we meet the performers, composers, friends and lovers he left marvelling in his wake.’

Radio Times

‘Reading about these things would have been a less enchanting experience than watching this film about them. The crucial difference was the stunning use made of Vaughan Williams's music.  Contributors were filmed listening to it, caught in its spell.  You came away feeling you not only understood the composer better, but also his music.  Lyrical, erotic, and beautifully photographed, this was television raised to the level of an art form.’

Nigel Farndale, Sunday Telegraph

‘The programme was crammed with memories of people who had known him and loved him, including the mistress, who became his wife and outlived him by almost half a century. Best of all there was stacks of music. Too often arts programmes eschew the art itself, on the grounds that viewers will be bored. But this was thrilling to hear and entirely complemented the narrative. This is the kind of experience we can only get from television, blending words, images and sound in a way no other medium can. Thank heavens some people — in this case, John Bridcut — are still making such programmes. He deserves thanks and very hearty congratulations.’

Simon Hoggart, The Spectator

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