from Butterworth, George, 1885-1916 to Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958

Letter No. VWL395

Letter from George Butterworth to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: VWL395

43 Colville Gardens
Bayswater W.

March 28 1914

My dear Ralph

Among  all the debauch of last night’s congratulations and mutual pattings on the back, I really had nothing much to add, but should now like to tell you how frightfully glad I am that you have at last achieved something worthy of your gifts (I refer to the work & its performance jointly, for after all a work cannot be a fine one until it is finely played – and it is still possible that the Sea Symphony & the Mystical Songs may turn out equally well – but at present they are not in the same class).1
I really advise you not to alter a note of the Symph: until after its second performance (which is bound to come soon) – the passages I kicked at didn’t bother me at all, because the music as a whole is so definite that a little occasional meandering is pleasant rather than otherwise. As to the scoring, I frankly don’t understand how it all comes off so well, but it does all sound right, so there’s nothing more to be said.
One practical result is that you have turned the Ellis concerts from a doubtful into a certain success and I hope he will announce another series soon, & perhaps start a guarantee fund.2
Meanwhile here’s to Symph no 2!3

George B.

1. A London Symphony has received its first performance the night before.
2. His own Idyll, The Banks of Green Willow, had been given at an earlier concert on 20th March. F.B. Ellis was a composer and patron and promoter of concerts of contemporary English music.
3. This letter was partially quoted by VW in his memoir about Butterworth included in a memorial volume privately printed by his father in 1918 (see further in VWL435).