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1 hour, 15 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 13 January 2013

Emily Taaffe and Sam Troughton read poetry and prose on the subject of horses, including texts by Larkin, Swift, Yeats and Shakespeare and music by Mahler, Berlioz, Rossini and Boyce.

First broadcast in January 2013.

Music Played

29 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Trad. Mongolian

    Trad. Mongolian Gunan Khar (Horse Song)

    Performer: Otgontsetseg

    BBC World Routes recording

  • Mongolian horse

    BBC World Routes recording

  • Ted Hughes

    The Horses, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Gustav Mahler

    Gustav Mahler Symphony No.1, Movement 1

    Performer: New York Philharmonic Performer: Leonard Bernstein (conductor)

    SONY SX12K89499

  • Anna Sewell

    Black Beauty, reader Sam Troughton

  • Cormac McCarthy

    All the Pretty Horses, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Doc Watson

    Doc Watson Tennessee Stud

    Composer: Jimmie Driftwood

    VANGUARD VCDD 415582

  • Anon, trans. Brian Stone

    Gawain and the Green Knight, reader Sam Troughton

  • Image for Sir Harrison Birtwistle

    Sir Harrison Birtwistle Introduction from Gawain's Journey

    Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra/Elgar Howarth


  • Cervantes, trans. J. M. Cohen

    Don Quixote, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Gioachino Rossini

    Gioachino Rossini William Tell, Overture

    Performer: National Philharmonic Orchestra Performer: Riccardo Chailly (conductor)

    DECCA 417 797 2

  • Thomas Hardy

    No Buyers, reader Sam Troughton

  • Image for Gustav Mahler

    Gustav Mahler Symphony No.1, Movement 3

    Performer: New York Philharmonic Performer: Leonard Bernstein (conductor)

    SONY SX12K89499

  • Enid Bagnold

    National Velvet, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Grand National 2009

    Jim McGrath (commentator)

  • Philip Larkin

    At Grass, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Frank Bridge

    Frank Bridge Nocturne from Suite for String Orchestra

    Performer: English String Orchestra Performer: William Boughton (conductor)

    NIMBUS NI521013

  • Tolstoy, translated Rosemary Edmonds

    Anna Karenina, reader Sam Troughton

  • Image for Charles Ives

    Charles Ives Runaway Horse on Main Street

    Performer: The President’s Own United States Marine Band Performer: Colonel Timothy W. Foley (director)

    NAXOS 8570559

  • Jonathan Swift

    Gulliver's Travels (abridged), reader Sam Troughton

  • Image for William Boyce

    William Boyce Symphony No.3 in C major

    Performer: The English Concert Performer: Trevor Pinnock (conductor)

    ARCHIV 419 631 2

  • Virgil, translated by John Dryden

    The Aeneid, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Hector Berlioz

    Hector Berlioz Les Troyens, Act 1 "Chatiment effroyable"

    Performer: Gary Lakes, Gregory Cross, Gino Quilico, Rene Schirrer, Michel Phillippe, Catherine Dubosc, Claudine Carlson Performer: Montreal Symphony Orchestra Chorus Performer: Montreal Symphony Orchestra Performer: Charles Dutoit (conductor)

    DECCA 443 694-2

  • W. B. Yeats

    Michael Robartes bids his beloved be at peace, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Johannes Brahms

    Johannes Brahms Es tont ein voller Harfenklang from Gesange Op.17

    Performer: Jan Schroeder (horn), Hans-Ulrich Winkler (horn) Performer: Julia Raines Hahn (harp) Performer: North German Radio Chorus

    DG 477 8258

  • Shakespeare

    Venus and Adonis, reader Sam Troughton

  • Image for Robert Schumann

    Robert Schumann Piano Quintet Op.44, Movement 3

    Performer: Beaux Arts Trio Performer: Samuel Rhodes (viola) Performer: Dolf Bettelheim (violin)

    PHILIPS 420791 2

  • Sylvia Plath

    Whiteness I Remember, reader Emily Taaffe

  • Image for Bat for Lashes

    Bat for Lashes Horse and I

    Composer: Natasha Khan


  • Producer's Note

    This episode is a celebration of the horse in literature, from the humble workhorse to knight's noble steed, from racehorse to ranch horse, as found in the writings of Cervantes, Philip Larkin, Thomas Hardy and Cormac McCarthy. Other imaginings of the horse include Jonathan Swift's Houyhnhnm, Virgil's Trojan Horse, and the creature as symbol of love and death in the poetry of Shakespeare and W. B. Yeats.

    At the core of many of these texts is the relationship between man and horse: we find the horse as extension of its master's image in Gawain, Don Quixote, and Hardy’s No Buyers. There’s man’s empathy with his horse in the characters of Cormac McCarthy's Grady and Tolstoy's Vronsky, and a subversion of the hierarchy in Gulliver's Travels, where the Houyhnhnm is a noble and rational creature that looks down on the primitive human, or Yahoo.

    Edith Bagnold and Philip Larkin give us two contrasting views of a champion racehorse, from the excitement of winning the world’s greatest steeplechase, to the twilight obscurity of retirement. In between we hear the music of a racing commentary broadcast: the Grand National at which Liam Treadwell rode the 100/1 outsider Mom Mome to victory in 2009.

    The following year Radio 3 visited the grasslands of Mongolia for the BBC’s Music Planet, home to the very earliest type of bowed string instrument, the morin khuur, or horse-headed fiddle; our opening music is a traditional horse song recorded on that trip. Horse-hair is still the standard material for modern string instrument bows.

    Another song in praise of a horse comes in the form of Doc Watson’s 1965 recording of Jimmie Driftwood’s Tennessee Stud, while Charles Ives paints a portrait of a runaway cab horse in a short sketch for concert band. Gawain and the Green Knight and the wooden horse of Virgil's Aeneid are accompanied by some of the music they inspired in Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain and Berlioz's Les Troyens. And of course no Words and Music about horses would be complete without the final gallop from Rossini's William Tell Overture.

    Felix Carey (Producer)


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