Flos Campi - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958)

Flos Campi (meaning ‘The flower of the field’) is a difficult piece to classify; subtitled ‘suite for solo viola, small chorus and small orchestra’, it is neither a choral work nor a viola concerto. The choir throughout is used as another instrument (all of the writing is wordless) and the viola, although it has a virtuoso part, is one voice among other instruments. The piece was written in 1925 and first performed in London, conducted by the composer’s friend, Sir Henry Wood. The orchestration of the piece shows Vaughan Williams at his most subtle and brilliant – as Michael Kennedy remarks: "the juxtaposition of viola and oboe, the delicate use of percussion and the poetic and imaginative use of the chorus give to Flos Campi the quality of a mosaic". The piece is in six movements, each of which is headed by a quotation in Latin from the Song of Solomon, which, although a biblical text, is actually a sensuous love song. This sensuousness is reflected in the music, which carries throughout, an oriental flavour that conjours up the court of Solomon.

 Barry Creasy


Collegium Musicum of London


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