Ireland heard Vaughan Williams’ extraordinary Sixth Symphony when it was introduced to the world in 1948. In a letter to his sister Ethel, dated 25 April 1948, a few days after the first performance, he wrote admiringly of this composer’s ability still to compose:
Yet old Vaughan Williams at the age of 75 has just brought out his 6th Symphony – I heard it twice, over wireless – it is a very powerful work, but seems to reflect the agonised & distorted spirit of this period – a period in which I can find no inspiration for writing music. Beauty does not now seem to have any place in the world. All is noise, strife & discord & rank materialism.