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The Lark Ascending is UK’s favourite classical piece

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  • by ANTHONY BARNES
 

The music that was played during the tearful final moments of Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper has been named Britain’s favourite piece of classical music.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending has risen to the top of the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame list, compiled from more than 100,000 votes from the station’s listeners.

The composition – written in its earliest form exactly a century ago – toppled Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2, which had reigned for three years.

The Lark Ascending last topped the poll in 2010 and three years ago it was named the nation’s favourite Desert Island Discs tune.

British composer Vaughan Williams was inspired by a 122-line poem of the same name by George Meredith, and his first version for violin and piano was written in 1914. Some six years later he completed the more familiar orchestral version.

He began The Lark Ascending as Europe approached its darkest moment on the eve of the First World War.

After its release, Vaughan Williams told how he set about writing a “pastoral romance for orchestra” when he was composing his work – arguably his most famous piece.

The music found a wider audience recently when it was aired as Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, took a lethal cocktail to end her suffering on ITV’s Coronation Street, following a battle with cancer. It was the long-standing character’s favourite piece of music.

The work featured in the 2008 documentary Man On Wire about high-wire walker Philippe Petit, and it was used in the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships by South Korean skater Kim Yuna in her free programme.

There is a strong showing in the Hall of Fame list for orchestral music used in video games, with two entries in the top 20.

The station began to broadcast game soundtracks regularly last year, and this is thought to have helped boost its profile among a younger audience.

The music for the Final Fantasy series, written by Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, was the highest video game entry at number seven, while The Elder Scrolls series, composed by Jeremy Soule, was at 17.

Mozart achieved the most entries in the chart with 22 in the overall top 300 – up from 19 last year – with his Clarinet Concerto, at number five, proving his most popular .

Another work by Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – made it to the third spot in the list. It was followed by Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto No 5 and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

Classic FM presenter John Suchet said: “Exactly 100 years after Vaughan Williams composed The Lark Ascending, its poignancy and beauty are as powerful as ever.”

Vaughan Williams, who succeeded in reviving British music during a career that spanned six decades, is regarded as one of the most important composers of the 20th century.

 

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