Two epoch-making works by English composers will be brought together in the St Albans Symphony Orchestra’s spring concert on Saturday, May 11, at St Saviour’s Church.

Premiered within thirty months of each other, the Symphony No 1 by Edward Elgar and the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams not only galvanised their composers’ reputations, but also enhanced the international standing of English music as a whole.

Elgar was in his fifties when he completed the symphony and was already celebrated for the Enigma Variations and his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. Yet the symphony marked him out as a master of orchestral colour. Welcomed in 1908 as “the greatest symphony of modern times” by its first conductor, it achieved a hundred performances by orchestras in Europe and America in its first year.

Although closer to the start of his composing career when he wrote the Tallis Fantasia, Vaughan Williams was already known for his Sea Symphony. He had previously borrowed the modal theme by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis for a hymn tune, but his re-working of the melody for double string orchestra and string quartet achieved new heights of technical and spiritual inspiration.

First performed in Gloucester Cathedral in 1910, the Fantasia’s popularity – like that of the Elgar symphony – has been boosted in recent years by an expanding audience for classical music on radio.

Tickets cost from £11 and are available from the SASO ticket secretary on 07976 800445, or online from

St Saviour’s Church, Sandpit Lane, St Albans, Saturday, May 11, 7.30pm.