I think I’ve warmed up to Ralph Vaughan Williams lately.
As 20th century English composers go, he has his own niche. He has the sentimentality of Elgar, but without the aristocratic bluster. He also has some of the folk sensibility of Holst, but less elemental and mercurial. It gives his music a gentle autochthony, like something that blossomed in an English meadow one spring morning.
It plays at something very deep within me. In particular “The Lark Ascending” fills me with such a bittersweet homesickness that I can’t help but give it my full, undivided attention. A friend of mine, a classsically-trained organist living in Boston, recently recorded a version of this piece. She knows about my past life in England and understood what a piece of fundamentally English music written on the eve of WWI, during that long summer of 1914, meant to me.
Here’s a YouTube playlist of Vaughan Willliams’ work: