The Lark Ascending. Taking its title from a poem written by George Meredith, The Lark Ascending was written for and premiered by the English violinist Marie Hall. Ms. Hall was a student of violinists, composers and pedagogues including August Wilhelmj, Edward Elgar, and Okatar Sevcik, with whom she apparently studied for eighteen months.
Eighteen months. Let's think about that - how many of us spent time with the volumes written by Mr. Sevcik in our early days? How many of us refer to Op. 1, Part 4 today? That Ms. Hall spent that much time with a man who is revered today as one of the early twentieth century "method masters" alongside Carl Flesch says volumes about her facility. Furthermore, like Joseph Joachim with Johannes Brahms, Ms. Hall worked with Vaughan Williams during the composition of The Lark Ascending, which resulted in the piece being dedicated to her.
While Ms. Hall did give the first public performances of the piece - first a violin and piano version in 1920 and a complete with orchestra in 1921 - it was not until 1928 that The Lark Ascending was recorded, that performance being given by English violinist Isolde Menges (note: while I am grateful for the "youtube to mp3 technology, if anyone knows how I can get my hands on this in a hard copy...).
During my undergraduate at the University of South Carolina School of Music, I spent HOURS in the music library listening to recordings. It was simply because I had found myself intrigued by a piece called The Lark Ascending after seeing the sheet music listed in a Shar catalog that I took the plunge and listened to a recording made by Rafael Druian with Louis Lane and the Cleveland Sinfonietta.
Imagine the wonder, the reverie, as a very green and very unwordly music student listened to one of the most "clean" performances of a work and subsequently fought both to learn and perform said work, which I did in 1993 in recital at Oklahoma State University.
With all of that, however, this post is not about me and my "wanderings". Nor is it about the fact that there are SO many recordings of The Lark Ascending, including a particularly interesting one made by Christopher Warren-Green and the London Chamber Orchestra.
This is about the strange and wonderful fact that the premiere, first recording, and subsequent benchmark readings of a work written in 1914 and completed in 1920, a "seriously developed entity and a summation of rural simplicity, that was soon to be blown away by the First World War", have been delivered by women.
One of those remarkable women following the "family tree" that includes Marie Hall, Isolde Menges, Iona Brown and Janine Jansen is American violinist Tai Murray.