Ralph Vaughan-Williams studied at the Royal College of Music with his friend and contemporary Leopold Stokowski, and later studied in Paris under composer Maurice Ravel. In 1904, he began collecting English folk songs, preserving this musical heritage for future generations, and using the styles and themes from traditional songs in his own compositions.

Vaughan-Wiliams’ 1929 Opera Sir John in Love is based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and it is from this opera that this Fantasia is taken. It freely borrows from the traditional Greensleeves melody, combining it with an East Anglian folk song which Vaughan-Williams had collected during his fieldwork.

© Matthew Lynch, 2009

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