The Lark Ascending is a painfully beautiful violin concerto written by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This performance by Janine Jansen is particularly expressive, hamming up the piece’s already florid, pentatonic lines. This is a piece that reaches divine heights, making use of a wide range of soundscapes, switching abruptly from the atmospheric to the visceral.
This piece was written just before Vaughan Williams voluntarily enlisted to serve in the British Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I - because he was 41 years old at the time, he could have avoided service entirely. He worked as a stretcher bearer, clearing the wounded from the battlefield in two hour shifts. He was surrounded, day after day, by millions of rats and dead bodies. The horrors he witnessed on the front lines of trench warfare changed the sentiment of his music going forward. When he returned from duty, his works became far more bleak, cerebral and detached.