‘It’s genius’ – classical music stars on why we love The Lark Ascending so much

5 April 2021, 20:40

By Rosie Pentreath

As ‘The Lark Ascending’ tops the Classic FM Hall of Fame a record eleventh time, a new film has been released featuring classical musicians sharing their personal experiences of the popular piece.

The enduringly popular Lark Ascending has topped the Classic FM Hall of Fame for another year.

But why do we love it so much? Inspired by the piece’s enduring place at the top of our Hall of Fame, the Royal Philharmonic (RPS) has created a film exploring just this.

The RPS asked famous musicians and dedicated music lovers to talk about what the piece means to them, in a beautiful new film.

We see several personalities from different corners of the music profession – including violinist Tasmin Little OBE and composer Sally Beamish OBE – each sharing, from lockdown, their own impressions of Vaughan Williams’ beloved masterpiece, telling us about what it means to them.

Read more: ‘The Lark Ascending’ tops world’s biggest poll of classical music tastes for eleventh year >

Violinist Tasmin Little OBE speaks about the love she has for the work, after having performed it countless times.

“I’ve played The Lark Ascending more than 60 times and each time has been a unique experience. I feel there’s something else at work in this music,” Little says in the film. “The idea of this little bird in this huge sky, soaring closer and closer to heaven… I think there’s something very spiritual about this concept, and such peace and tranquillity in the music that it helps us to find our own sense of peace inside.”

Violinist Elena Urioste says she experiences “a sense of inhalation and exhalation” throughout different phrases of the piece.

Conductor Ben Gernon shares what it’s like to face the orchestra from the podium, during a performance of the piece. “I always look forward to conducting The Lark Ascending. I find in performance it has this amazing ability to reach absolutely everyone. It’s a beguiling and mesmerising piece, but it’s actually quite simple – and its success lies in how it brings the outside world inside the concert hall.”

Meanwhile, composer Sally Beamish OBE describes Vaughan Williams’ music as “genius”, pointing out how innovative it would have been at that time to write something so descriptive and free for the violin.

“The violin writing is just stunning,” Beamish adds.

Read more: Why does everyone love The Lark Ascending? Violinist Jennifer Pike explains its magic. >

Click here to listen the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021 in full on Global Player, the official Classic FM app >

Pianist Tom Poster also features, introducing his thoughts on the original violin-piano arrangement of the piece. And cultural historian Gavin Plumley is on hand to round the story off, with where it fits in a wider historical and social context.

It makes for an inspiring watch – and beautiful too, with George Meredith’s poem that originally inspired the work woven throughout the film.

Read more: How to become a member of Royal Philharmonic Society >

To watch, sign up to RPS’s membership here. RPS Membership is designed for music lovers to further their curiosity in classical music and get the chance to attend exclusive in-person and online events, and nominate artists for the prestigious annual RPS Awards.

Watch the film The Lark Ascending in full on the Royal Philharmonic Society’s website by becoming a member today. Visit: royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/lark to find out more.