Fantasia On Greensleeves
Ralph Vaughan Williams

125

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Vaughan Williams has 8 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame — the same amount as Brahms — and this is his fifth. This peaked at number 105 in 2008.

This exquisite four-minute orchestral miniature has far eclipsed the song it was inspired by: namely, Greensleeves, a traditional melody that was doing the rounds in the days of Henry VIII and which was put to masterful use here by Vaughan Williams. He didn't create it as a stand-alone piece, though; instead, it was initially used in the third act of the composer's Shakespeare-inspired opera Sir John in Love.

My Lady Greensleeves by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1863).