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Ecstasy

Sunday 20 July 2008 22:15-0:00 (Radio 3)

A sequence of music and poetry evoking states of rapture. Religious ecstasy is explored through poems by John Donne and George Herbert, and music by Messiaen and Robert Carver. Musical evocations of ecstatic feelings include pieces by Scriabin and Thomas Ades, while Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson provide a poetic depiction of the elation felt by lovers.

Read by Michael Elwyn and Eleanor Bron.

Duration:

1 hour 45 minutes

Ecstacy

Michael Elwyn Michael Elwyn (reader)


Eleanor Bron Eleanor Bron (reader)

This programme began life as a collection of poetry and music inspired by feelings of rapture; Ecstasy seemed an appropriate title. But "ecstasy" is one of those words with many layers of meaning. Etymologically speaking, ecstasy means being literally out of one's wits - from which it came to mean an experience so intense that one's normal relationship with sensation and the surrounding world is lost. Only comparatively recently has the word taken on connotations of intense pleasure. But ecstasy can be far from pleasant: think of Wilfred Owen's painful phrase from Dulce et Decorum Est, "an ecstasy of fumbling", describing a desperate attempt to don a gasmask. As I put this edition of Words and Music together, therefore, my choices started to reflect this multiplicity of meaning and experience.

This sequence charts a path through various different forms of ecstasy: broadly speaking, it's a journey from light to dark. The first section of the programme, opening with an excerpt from Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, is devoted mainly to the idea of ecstasy as rapture, moving into a consideration of the ecstatic nature of love (sonnets by Shakespeare and Petrarch). Religious ecstasy also plays a large part, represented by sacred music by Bach, Poulenc and the great Scottish polyphonist Robert Carver, and by the poetry of George Herbert. A more mystical take on the subject is offered by John Donne's great poem The Ecstacy, here followed by a movement by Messiaen, whose music is so often radiantly ecstatic in nature. The final section offers a slightly more ambivalent view of ecstasy, made explicit by Walt Whitman's phrase "madness and joy" - a phrase which seemed to apply to the manic energy of Thomas Ades's movement (ecstasio) from his orchestral work Asyla. I have ended the programme with a work by John Dowland, one of his great Lachrimae pavans: this is deeply sad music, but ecstatically so.

Tom Morris (producer)

Playlist
ALL TIMINGS FROM BEGINNING OF PROGRAMME.

00:00:00
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN
Le Poeme de l'Extase
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Claudio Abbado (conductor)
Deutsche Grammophon 4153702
Track 6

00:03:54
Emily Dickinson
Take all away from me, but leave me ecstasy
Read by Eleanor Bron

00:04:21
Rupert Brooke Beauty and Beauty
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:04:59
LOUIS FITZGERALD AND ELLA FITZERALD
Cheek to Cheek Ella and Louis
Verve 5433042.
Track 9

00:10:50
William Shakespeare
Sonnet 75
Read by Eleanor Bron

00:11:47
ANTON WEBERN
Wie bin ich froh!
from Drei Lieder, op. 25 Halina Lukomska (soprano)
Charles Rosen (piano)
Sony SM3K 45845.
Disc 2,
track 41

00:12:44
Petrarch, trans. Archdeacon Francis Wrangham
Sonnet 61: He Blesses All the Circumstances of his Passion
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:13:47
J.S. BACH
Cantata BWV 194
(I: Chorus: Hochsterwunschtes Freudenfest)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir Ton Koopman (conductor)
Erato 3984273152.
Disc 3, track 7

00:18:01
Amy Lowell
The Giver of Stars Read by Eleanor Bron

00:18:46
IGOR STRAVINSKY
Le Roi des Etoiles
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor)
Deutsche Grammophon 4350732.
Track 15

00:24:16
Paul Muldoon
Bran
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:24:36
C. Day Lewis
The Ecstatic
Read by: C. Day Lewis

00:25:26
ROBERT CARVER
Missa Dum Sacrum Mysterium: Benedictus
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers (conductor)

00:30:50
CONLON NANCARROW
Study for player piano no 3a Wergo
69072 CD 1,
track 1

00:34:13
Robert Graves
To Be in Love
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:34:54
GEORGE GERSHWIN, ARR. MICHAEL FINNISSY
Love is Here to Stay Nicolas Hodges (piano)
Metronome METCD1063.
Track 4

00:39:13
Andrew Marvell
To His Coy Mistress
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:41:17
Carol Ann Duffy
Rapture
Read by Eleanor Bron

00:42:17
Alexander Borodin
String Quartet no 2 in D (III: Notturno)
Borodin String Quartet
EMI CDC7477952.
Track 7

00:50:53
John Donne
The Ecstacy
Read by Michael Elwyn

00:53:55
Olivier Messiaen
Vingt Regards sur L'enfant-Jesus XV: Le Baiser de l'Enfant-Jesus: Tres lent, calme
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Teldec 3984 268682.
Disc 2, track 5

01:03:55
George Herbert
The Temple: Prayer (1)
Read by Eleanor Bron

01:04:59
FRANCIS POULENC
Messe in G: Sanctus
Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Stephen Darlington (conductor)
Nimbus NI5197

01:07:20
LOU REED Ecstasy Ecstasy.
Reprise 9362474252.
Track 4

01:11:40
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Kubla Khan
Read by Eleanor Bron

01:14:27
W.A. MOZART
Piano Concerto no 21 in C (II: Andante)
English Chamber Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim (piano/conductor)
EMI CDC7472692.
Track 2

01:14:27
Walt Whitman
One Hour to Madness and Joy
Read by Michael Elwyn

01:24:18
THOMAS ADES
Asyla (III: Ecstasio)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
EMI CDC5568182.
Track 3

01:30:27
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Carrion Comfort
Read by Eleanor Bron

01:31:55
GUSTAV MAHLER
Ruckert-Lieder (5: "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen")
Wiener Philharmoniker
Violetta Urmana (soprano) Pierre Boulez (conductor)
Deutsche Grammophon 00289 4775329.
Track 8

01:38:53
Emily Dickinson
For each ecstatic instant
Read by Eleanor Bron

01:39:19 John Dowland
Pavan Lachrimae Verae
Fretwork
Virgin VBD5615612.
Disc 2, track 17

Words and Music live, Saturday November 10th 2007, 8.30pm
St George's Small Concert Room, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L1 1JJ

Join Cathy Tyson, Ensemble 10/10, saxophonist Tim Whitehead, New Generation Jazz Artist Gwilym Simcock and singer Jennifer John for a unique Words and Music event, as part of the Radio 3 Free Thinking festival.

The theme of "Freedom" will be explored, with readings of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Tennyson and music from Janacek, Bach and Stravinsky to improvisations on Ellington's Come Sunday and The Beatles' Free as a Bird.

Tickets are still available from Radio Merseyside on 0151 708 5500.
Details are also available on the Free Thinking website www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/freethinking

The programme will be broadcast on 11th November in the usual Words and Music slot.




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