Prelude on “Rhosymedre” – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
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In 1920, shortly after returning from service in World War I, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote three organ preludes based on Welsh hymn tunes. Of these, his prelude on Rhosymedre – this Sunday’s organ prelude in church – became the best known.
The hymn tune Rhosymedre was composed by the Welsh Anglican parish priest John David Edwards (1805-1885), who named it after the town where he lived, and included this hymn in a collection published in 1836. The word Rhosymedre means “beautiful,” and the tune is sung to a variety of hymn texts. Both in Common Praise as well as in the New English Hymnal, the melody is set to the words “Author of Life Divine.”
In this organ prelude Ralph Vaughan Williams turns a simple hymn melody into a piece of great beauty which, whilst lyrical and lovely, is also æthereal and timeless.