Vaughan Williams was the most important English composer of his generation and was the key figure in the 20th century revival of British music. He composed an impressive array of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music and film scores and collected and arranged many English folk songs.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Gloucestershire in England, where his father was the vicar at All Saints Church. After his father’s death, when Vaughan Williams was three years old, he went to live in the Surrey Hills. Vaughan Williams’s great-uncle was Charles Darwin. Vaughan Williams began learning piano at the age of six and was accepted to the Royal College of Music in London after his school education and also read history and music at Trinity College, Cambridge. At the Royal College of Music, Vaughan Williams befriended Gustav Holst.
In 1897, he took lessons with Max Bruch in Berlin and in 1907-8 he studied for three months with Ravel, which were ground-breaking steps towards his orchestral style.
In 1904, he discovered English folksongs and carols by travelling the countryside, transcribing the songs he heard in small rural communities. The following year, he conducted his first concert, of the newly founded Leith Hill Music Festival, which he would continue to conduct until 1953.