Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Job: A masque for dancing is based on William Blake’s cycle of illustrations of the biblical tale; but a study of the scenario and of preserved correspondence indicates disparate theological and philosophical arguments and conflicts.
The composer put his own stamp on the story, while accepting the symbolism of Blake’s drawings, and effectively deconstructed the illustrations in favor of his own intentions. Job: A masque for dancing is no ordinary theater piece—it reveals a personal view as individual as that present in Blake’s original illustrations.
This according to “A deconstruction of William Blake’s vision: Vaughan Williams and Job” by Alison Sanders McFarland (International journal of musicology III , 339–371; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1995-4362).
Today is Vaughan Williams’s 150th birthday!
Above, Blake’s depiction of Job and his family restored to prosperity; below, a complete recording of Vaughan Williams’s ballet.
Nevertheless, the work has been banned by clergy who believe that Blake’s version of Christianity is too radical, and that the poem falls short in theological matters. As recently as 2001, a bride in Cheadle cancelled her wedding when the rector refused to allow her to include a performance of Jerusalem.
“As a poem it is interesting, but Blake was a bit of a weirdo,” the rector explained to the press. “Blake appeals to the proto-atheists and proto-socialists, camps which—although they weren’t known by name back then—the poet fell into.”
This according to “William Blake, Hubert Parry, and the singing of Jerusalem” by Mark Chapman (The hymn: A journal of congregational song LXII/2 [spring 2011] pp. 41–51). Above, Blake’s Jerusalem: Emanation of the giant Albion (click to enlarge); below, the performance at the royal wedding on 29 April 2011.
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