Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Classical Music Inspired by Shakespeare

The man that hath no music in himself, 
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; 
The motions of his spirit are dull as night 
And his affections dark as Erebus: 
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

- The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.91-7

The Bard of Avon's works is undoubtedly the is most inspiring literary source for musical ideas in western classical music, after the Bible. Generations of composers, from Haydn to Henze, set his sonnets and plays into music.  Some of the greatest examples are: Ralph Vaughan Williams' enchanting Serenade to Music, which drew the text from the discussion about music in The Merchant of Venice, Elgar's Symphonic Study Falstaff, which the composer himself regarded as his finest orchestral piece, and Berlioz's most comprehensive and detailed programmatic piece, Roméo et Juliette. To name but a few. The love scene of the Berlioz symphony contains some of the most tender music I've ever heard.

Here's to William, the Spotify playlist: The Bard: Shakespeare in Music (166 tracks, total time: 12 hours) To keep the playlist neat, for the large scale works like the operas I only put in one track per album, if you want to listen to Verdi the Othello in its entirety, just go the the full album page from this playlist. I will add in more works when I find them. "If music be the food of love, play on."

And below is one of the finest moments in Orson Welles' career, and in the history of cinema.