Ralph Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem

672 Words 3 Pages
Spanning approximately forty minutes, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem was first performed on October 2, 1936. Following World War I and preceding World War II, this suite of choral pieces appears to be a call for peace and a warning against war, perhaps directly referencing R. Vaughan Williams' own personal beliefs. Divided into six sections or movements, the text is taken from poems by Walt Whitman, John Bright, and passages of the Bible. These pieces are: "Agnus Dei", "Beat, beat, drums!", "Reconciliation", "Dirge for two Veterans", and "The Angel of Death." Overall, R. Vaughn Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem is a composition driven by chromaticism and powerful rhythms, often used to symbolize the strain of war. However, to contrast the war-like sections, the peaceful sections are characterized by a more traditional, diatonic structure. Furthermore, parallel fourths and fifths are used throughout the work, as well as, cross rhythms such as eight, seven, four, and two against three, and seven against four.
Originally scored for chorus and large orchestra with a baritone and soprano soloist, the first piece, "Agnus Dei", is the only piece that is not in English. Taken
…show more content…
Vaughn Williams follows this recitative with sections of the Bible patched together in a way that makes the text less about the original interpretation of divine destruction and more about war between countries. The focus of the movement then shifts up to a climax where the chorus sings "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good-will toward men." As the chorus repeats this line, the organ and the glockenspiel are portrayed as church bells, with a sense of victory. Williams then ends the work with a return to the original Dona Nobis theme in C major, now adorned with accidentals, and the soprano soloist ends on a lingering E, which hints that the world has yet to reach its'

Related Documents