16:58 Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872- 1958)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
The work is scored for an expanded string orchestra divided into three parts: orchestra I, a full-sized string orchestra; orchestra II, a single desk from each section (ideally placed apart from Orchestra I); and a string quartet. Vaughan Williams made this configuration resemble an organ in sound, with the quartet representing the swell division, orchestra II the choir division, and orchestra I the great division. The score specifies that the second orchestra should be placed apart from the first. This spacing emphasises the way in which the second orchestra several times echoes the first orchestra.
In structure this piece resembles the Elizabethan-age “fantasy.” The theme is heard in its entirety three times during the course of the work, but the music grows from the theme’s constituent motives or fragments, with variations upon them. A secondary melody, based on the original, is first heard on the solo viola about a third of the way into the Fantasia, and this theme forms the climax of the work about five minutes before the end.
Tallis’s original tune is in the Phrygian mode and was one of nine he contributed to the Psalter of 1567 for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. When Vaughan Williams edited the English Hymnal of 1906, he also included this melody (number 92).