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Tallis in an 18th-century engraving Gerard Vandergucht
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Ralph Vaughan Williams

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Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the Fantasia in 1910 on the melody of the hymn, "When, rising from the bed of death," by English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585). This was common practice for Vaughan Williams, who often looked to music of the past to enrich his current musical ideas. To create the piece's powerful dynamic shifts and scope, Vaughan Williams uses three separate ensembles: a full string orchestra, a smaller string ensemble, and a string quartet. As the music passes from one ensemble to another Vaughan Williams is free to create the many rich effects, echoes, and halos of sound that create the enchanting quality of the Fantasia.

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