The Supreme Inspiration I: Writers

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
The world’s greatest playwright had a huge influence over western classical music, especially romantic music, because it was only at the end of the eighteenth century his plays were known outside the English-speaking world. Mendelssohn’s overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of the earliest pieces of descriptive music specifically intended for concert. This was followed by Berlioz’s intense enthusiasm for the plays, fuelled by his love for the actress Harriet Smithson, and his King Lear overture and Romeo and Juliet symphony. In Russia, Tchaikovsky conformed to romantic convention with his Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture, Hamlet and The Tempest.

In opera, Rossini’s Otello was later overshadowed by Verdi’s, with its text faithful to the original. Verdi’s Falstaff takes opera into new territory with its emphasis on ensemble. The twentieth century saw Shakespeare inspiring interest from British composers. Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Rape of Lucretia based on Troilus and Cressida are probably the most firmly established in the repertoire today. By far the best-known ballet is Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. And mention should also be made of Walton’s superb scores for Olivier’s Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
One of the truly seminal figures of world literature, Goethe’s poems were often intended for music. The history of German song from Schubert to Wolf is dominated by him. From Berlioz to Mahler, his role in the history of large-scale choral works is massive. But Mendelssohn’s Erste Walpurgisnacht and Schumann’s Requiem for Mignon have probably been overshadowed by the Faust operas by Gounod and Boito. Faust with its story of selling one’s soul to the devil became a romantic obsession and one which asked important new religious questions.

Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)
For the extraordinary breadth and variety of character and the musical appeal of his language, the Russian poet Pushkin’s writing has had an enormous appeal to nineteenth- and twentieth-century composers. The impressive list of works he inspired includes Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Britten’s The Poet’s Echo.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Byron’s literary work, Manfred, drew a symphony from Tchaikovsky, as well as works from Schumann and Rachmaninov. He also inspired Berlioz’s Harold in Italy and R Strauss’ Don Juan.

W H Auden (1907-73)
As well as being a prolific poet, W H Auden formed close friendships with both Benjamin Britten and Stravinsky – his influence drawing works such as Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers and Paul Bunyan and Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and Elegy for J F K. His poetry also inspired Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers and The Bassarids.

Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)
This German poet is probably most remembered for writing the words to ‘Ode to Joy’, included in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The libretto to Verdi’s Don Carlos was based on Schiller, and over 50 of his texts were set by Schubert.

Other writer muses: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Bellini’s I Puritani, Rossini’s The Lady of the Lake and Schubert’s Ave Maria were influenced by Sir Walter Scott; and Rossini, Verdi, Liszt and Tchaikovsky by Dante. Petrarch inspired Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets and was set by Monteverdi, Schubert and Schoenberg.

Classic CD magazine, 1996

Wordless Wednesday: Marty Bell’s homes sweet homes




Storytime: Mr Bump and the Knight

mrbumpYear: 2007
Author: Adam Hargreaves
Illustrator: Adam Hargreaves

Mr Bump was thoroughly fed up. It did not seem to matter what he did, he always ended up getting bumped and bruised or scraped and scratched.

So you can imagine how hard it was for him to find a job.

He had tried working at the baker’s, but he had burnt his fingers on the bread oven.


He had tried being a bricklayer, but he had dropped a brick on his foot.



Buy to find out more!

Music Monday: Symphonic Duck Tales!

I was pointed to this halfway into Easter break, and I fairly squeed – no joke. Tuomas Holopainen’s first solo venture is The Life and Times of Scrooge (McDuck, that is). It’s not in the style of Nightwish, although Nightwish fans won’t necessarily be disappointed; I wasn’t. I don’t give a toss for the show the music is supposed to go with; I’m just happy to immerse myself in total epic awesome. At this point, I’m not even sure if it is possible for me not to like something that Tuomas has written. The following two are my favourite tracks off the whole work. What better way to celebrate 5 years on

The Body Is Natural

Sitting-in-NatureSo much of the human experience is removed from nature that we tend to forget that we are products of the natural world. At the moment of birth, we are perfectly attuned to nature. Our feelings are an authentic response to the stimulus we encounter. We interact with our environment viscerally, desiring only what is necessary for our survival. And, if we are lucky, we take in nourishment in the form of pure mother’s milk. As months and years pass, however, we discover the sights, sounds, and scents of the synthetic world. Though these often momentarily dazzle us, the dim memory of our naturalness remains. When we embrace the notion that human beings are inherently natural, bringing it to the forefront of our day-to-day experiences, we achieve a new level of wellness that boasts nature at its very core.

We innately understand that our bodies are not composed of plastics or man-made chemicals and that there is no legitimate reason to consume or expose ourselves bodily to such substances. This knowledge is reinforced each time we find ourselves energized by sweet, fresh air and warm sunlight or awed by the majesty of Mother Nature’s beauty. We feel the strength of our connection to nature when fresh food that is close to the earth sustains us more effectively than artificial supplements and when the pleasures of exercise outweigh the pains of exertion. The human body has been blessed with the same physical intuitiveness that all nonhuman living beings employ instinctively. But because our lives are no longer bound up in nature’s rhythms, we must actively seek to reconnect with this formerly innate skill. The process of rediscovering our place in the natural world can be exciting and inspiring, since nothing more is required of us than to delight in nature’s wonders, to derive! nourishment from natural foods, and to drink deeply of all the wisdom that plants and animals have to share.

Your own naturalness will reveal itself to you when you look beyond your beliefs, your lifestyle choices, and the attitudes you hold. When these constructs are stripped away, you will see a body and mind that never gave up its relationship to the essence of the natural world from which consciousness sprang.


Month at a Glance

April 2014
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