New Vaughan Williams found on birthday

A choral work by Vaughan Williams has been rediscovered more than a century since its composition. The news comes on the 138th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

A Cambridge Mass was found by the academic Alan Tongue, among manuscripts at an exhibition in Cambridge University Library. It will be premiered next March in a concert conducted by Tongue at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.

Vaughan Williams composed the 45-minute work for his Doctorate at Cambridge University in 1899. He was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was criticised for his unconventional musical style. Today he is recognised as one of England's greatest composers, and his The Lark Ascending has topped the Classic FM Hall of Fame for several years.

Alan Tongue commented on his discovery: “Gazing at a page of the score displayed in a glass case, I knew immediately that here was a significant work… After the exhibition closed, I visited the Manuscripts Room and asked to see the mass. I sat enthralled, turning over the pages in the hushed atmosphere and trying to imagine the sounds. Here was clearly a work from a great composer.”

Dr Paul Wingfield, Director of Studies in Music at Trinity College, commented:
"The discovery of this early Vaughan Williams work is not only an exciting event for both Trinity (the composer's old Cambridge college) and the University as a whole, but it is also a salutary lesson: it is in retrospect embarrassing that scholars have overlooked something that was right under their noses for so long, and it reminds us how wrong were the Cambridge tutors who predicted that Vaughan Williams would never amount to much as a composer."

Kausikan Rajeshkumar, a final year music student at Trinity College, has recorded excerpts of A Cambridge Mass, which you can hear in the video below.

Vaughan-Williams