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We Must Love One Another or Die

Duration:
55 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 13 April 2008

Sian Thomas and Nicholas Farrell read poetry and prose from the 1930s by Louis MacNeice, Sylvia Townsend Warner, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, Dylan Thomas and WH Auden, with music by Britten, Barber, Robeson, Bartok and Noel Coward.

  • Producer's Note

    ‘Everywhere change, everywhere revolution. In Germany, in Russia, in Italy, in Spain the whole of civilisation, of society was changing’ wrote Virginia Woolf, describing the 1930s.

    This week’s Words and Music takes a journey through the decade which ended with the outbreak of World War Two. The programme begins with Louis MacNeice’s beautiful lyric poem ‘Snow’. ‘World is crazier and more of it than we think, incorrigibly plural’ he said, in a poem which explored the feelings of isolation, menace, scepticism and uncertainty in the 1930s.

    War is a constant presence during the decade. Earlier, the Spanish Civil War – which began in July 1936 – inspired many composers and writers. Many intellectuals of the Left rallied to the Republican cause including George Orwell who wrote his account of his experience as a militiaman in ‘Homage to Catalonia’.

    Stephen Spender too spent time in Spain where he was haunted by what he saw in the field. In 1939 he wrote a poem about the death of a soldier,‘A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map’, which he presented to the composer Samuel Barber who wrote a choral setting for the poem. The events of the war cast a dark shadow too on Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto in D Minor which was written for the Spanish violinist Antonio Brosa.

  • .

    The work of the male poets of the 1930s – W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, T.S. Eliot – is still well known and widely read but, in the programme, you’ll also hear the less well known female poets of the decade, Sylvia Townsend Warner and E.J. Scovell. Scovell’s poem ‘Flowers’ can be heard alongside Delius’ ‘Violin Sonata No 3’ which the composer completed in 1930.

    The American experience of the 1930s is represented by a reading from John Steinbeck’s epic 1939 novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ set in the American Depression and following the journey of the Joad family as they travel from the Mid-West to California in a desperate search of work.

    The programme ends with W.H. Auden’s ‘September 1, 1939’, written in the first days of the Second World War, a poem which he later disowned and refused to have reprinted. When he finally allowed the poem to appear in the Penguin ‘Poets of the Thirties’ it was on the condition that the editor made it clear that Auden regarded it as ‘trash’ which he ‘was ashamed to have written’. Between the writing of the poem and today few have agreed with the poet’s view.

    Producer: Fiona McLean

  • Running Order

    Timings are from the start of the programme

    00:00:00
    BENJAMIN BRITTEN
    Les Illuminations
    Interlude
    Frank Lloyd – horn
    City of London Sinfonia
    Richard Hickox – conductor
    VIRGIN CLASSICS 3499232

    00:00:42
    LOUIS MACNEICE
    Snow
    Nicholas Farrell (reader)

    00:01:29
    NOEL COWARD
    Twentieth Century Blues
    The Noel Coward Album
    Peter Matz – piano
    SONY CD47253

    00:05:02
    E.J.SCOVELL
    Flowers
    Sian Thomas (reader)

    00:05:42
    DELIUS
    Violin Sonata No 3
    Tamsin Little - violin
    Piers Lane – piano
    CONIFER 75605513152

    00:09:47
    T.S. ELIOT
    Marina
    Sian Thomas (reader)

    00:12:24
    SAMUEL BARBER
    The Rain has Fallen
    On Dover Beach
    Thomas Allen – baritone
    Roger Vignoles – piano
    Endellion String Quartet
    VIRGIN CLASSICS VC5450332

    00:14:21
    GEORGE ORWELL
    Homage to Catalonia
    Nicholas Farrell (reader)

    00:15:34
    SAMUEL BARBER
    A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map
    Cambridge University Chamber Choir
    Timothy Brown – director
    GAMUT CLASSICS 535

  • Running Order

    00:21:27
    SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER
    Port Bou
    Sian Thomas (reader)

    00:22:29
    BENJAMIN BRITTEN
    Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 15
    Rodney Friend – violin
    Sir John Pritchard – conductor
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    LPO 0024

    00:28:10
    STEPHEN SPENDER
    Fall of a City
    Nicholas Farrell (reader)

    00:29:37
    PAUL ROBESON
    The Four Insurgent Generals
    Songs for Free Men
    PEARL GEMMCD9264

    00:31:34
    JOHN LEHMANN
    This Excellent Machine
    Nicholas Farrell (reader)

    00:32:38
    BENJAMIN BRITTEN
    Blues
    The Clock on the Wall (from On the Frontier)
    Daryl Runswick - Instrumental arrangements
    UNICORN DKPCD9138

    00:34:58
    JOHN STEINBECK
    Grapes of Wrath
    Sian Thomas (reader)

    00:37:03
    DUKE ELLINGTON
    Blue Light
    Blue Feeling
    PAST PERFECT PPCD78103

  • Running Order

    00:39:46
    W.H. AUDEN
    September 1, 1939
    Nicholas Farrell (reader)

    00:43:21
    WILLIAM WALTON
    Violin Concerto
    Jascha Heifetz – violin
    William Walton – conductor
    RCA GD87966

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