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Chains of Desire

Sunday 25 May 2008 22:35-0:00 (Radio 3)

A sequence of poems, prose and letters read by actors Neil Pearson and Clare Higgins interspersed with music, all connected by the theme of erotic love. With words by Catullus, Andrew Marvell, Shakespeare, Keats as well as Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Proust (in translation). The music includes works by Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Wagner, Dvorak and Orff.

Duration:

1 hour 25 minutes

Chains of Desire

Clare Higgins (reader)

Neil Pearson (reader)


Producer's Note

This sequence of poems, prose, letters and music are loosely connected by the theme of erotic love which can bind with chains as well as give wings.

The poet Catullus captured the more bawdy aspects of ancient Rome in a sequence of explicit and sensual poems, some of which Carl Orff set to music in his Catulli carmina. The chorus of youths praising the joys of carnality leads into one of the iconic poems about grabbing love with both hands:
Andrew Marvell urges his coy mistress to "tear our pleasures with rough strife". And this is the thought behind Juliet's great speech while she is impatiently waiting for Romeo.

Beethoven's famous letter to his "Immortal beloved" is commonly thought to have been written for the Countess Giulietta Giucciardi for whom he wrote the Moonlight Sonata. It is not a great work of literature, and it is not entirely clear what he is trying to express - though there is a suspicion that Beethoven the idealist is more excited by the thought of an impossible love rather than the mundane reality.

Berg's Lulu takes this notion of idealised passion to its ultimate degree. Lulu will be whatever fantasy of a woman you would like her to be and in the Lied der Lulu she cynically expounds her philosophy.

In Living in Sin Adrienne Rich confronts the fact that her slightly sordid studio flat has taken the gloss from her love affair and in Joyce Dillie Keane lets rip at the "other woman."

The sequence of Baudelaire, Flaubert and Proust (all in translation) explores the full Heaven and Hell of desire. The Jewels is one of the poems that got Baudelaire into such hot water when he first tried to publish it. No translation can quite reproduce the sensual sonority of the French language in his hands, but the imagery of the tinkling jewels and the oiled thighs give us a tantalising glimpse of this great poem.

Overly-romantic but bored, Emma Bovary gets her husband to take her to Donizetti's Lucie de Lamermoor (the French version, of course). During the performance it becomes clear to her that she has thrown her life away with "the soiling of marriage and the disillusions of adultery". Flaubert implies a relationship between the over-the-top production and Emma's unrealistic desires for erotic fulfilment.

Proust's "Remembrance of things past" is an encyclopaedic examination of love in all its various forms. In this scene Monsieur de Charlus cruises the younger man, Jupien and leads the author to compare the situation of gay men looking to meet each other with the case of rare orchids than can only be pollinated by a certain type of bumble-bee.

2 contrasting poems by Keats next. In Ode on Melancholy he recommends that we have to be fully open to the pain of desire and must not "drown the wakeful anguish of the soul." By contrast, in To sleep, Keats (and Britten) want to be freed from "curious conscience, that still hoards its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole."

Finally, 2 more contrasting views of erotic love. In Privilege of Being Robert Haas disappointedly concludes that erotic love can't deliver us from loneliness or dissatisfaction. Whereas for Wagner death in love points the way towards denial of the self in the billowing torrent of the "World-Breath".

Clive Portbury (Producer)

Playlist

00:00.00
Orff
Start of the Praelusio from Catulli Carmina
Linz Mozart Choir
Munich Radio Orchestra
Welser-Most
EMI 5 55517 2
Track 1

00:00:40
Andrew Marvell
To His Coy Mistres

Read by Neil Pearson

00:03.20
Orff
Extract from the middle of the Praelusio from Catulli Carmina
Linz Mozart Choir
Munich Radio Orchestra
Welser-Most
EMI 5 55517 2
Track 1

00:07.09
Shakespeare
extract from Romeo and Juliet
Act 3 scene 2
Read by Clare Higgins

00:08:55
Dvorak
Furiant from Piano Quintet in A Op 81
Alban Berg Quartet
Rudolf Buchbinder (piano)
EMI 5 17644 2
Disc 1
Track 8

00:13:16
Beethoven
To the Imortal Beloved

(translation by Clive Portbury)
Read by Neil Pearson

00:14:37
Beethoven
1st mvt of the Moonlight Sonata Op27/2
Evgeny Kissin (piano)
RCA09026 68910 2
Track 1

00:20:54
E.E.Cummings
i like my body when it is with your body

Read by Clare Higgins

00:21:54
Berg
Lied der Lulu
Margaret Price (soprano)
LSO
Abbado
DG 437 005-2
Track 3

00:24:48
LouLou Gaste
Sexe
from the album "Plaisirs (At The Casino de Paris)"
Line Renaud
Capitol 8 35177 2
Track 3

00:25:07
Kim Addonizio
"What do Women want?"
from "Tell me"
Read by Clare Higgins

00:26:33
Adrienne Rich
Living in Sin

Read by Clare Higgins

00:28:02
DillieKeane
Joyce
Dillie Keane (vocal)
Russell Churney (piano)
Showbiz Floozie Records Dillie 01
Track 7

00:33:50
Baudelaire
The Jewels ("Les Bijoux)
translated by William Aggeler
The Flowers of Evil (1954)
Read by Neil Pearson

00:36:10
R. Strauss
Dance of the 7 Veils from Salome
Chicago SO
Fritz Reiner
RCA 09026 68636 2
Track 4

00:39:14
Flaubert
Excerpt from Madame Bovary, Part 2, Chapter 15
(trans. Eleanor Marx-Aveling, 1855-1898)
Read by Clare Higgins

00:43:58
Donizetti
Sextet from Lucie de Lammermoor
Natalie Dessay (Lucie) solists
Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera National de Lyon
Evelino Pido
Virgin 3 52449 2
CD 1
Track 17

00:47:52
Proust
Remembrance of Things Past: Cities of the Plain, Part 1
(trans. Scott Montcrieff and Terence Kilmartin)
Read by Neil Pearson

00:51:00
Rimsky-Korsakov
The Flight of the Bumble-bee
Rotterdam PO
David Zinman
Philips 42 605-2
Disc 1
Track 14

00:52:42
Emily Dickinson
For each ecstatic instant
Read by Clare Higgins

00:53:07
Rodgers and Hart
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered from Pal Joey
Ella Fitzgerald (vocal)
Veuve 523 990 2
Track 19

01:00:29
Keats
Letter to Fanny Brawne
Read by Neil Pearson

01:03:05
Janacek
3rd mvt from 2nd String Quartet
"Intimate Letters"
Lindsay Quartet
ASV DCA 749
Track 7

01:08:20
Keats
Ode on Melancholy
Read by Clare Higgins

01:10:16
Britten
Sonnet "O soft embalmer of the still midnight" + epilogue
Peter Pears (tenor)
Barry Tuckwell (horn)
ECO/Britten
Decca 436 395-2
Track 7

01:14:26
Privilege of being
from "Human Wishes"
Robert Haas
Read by Neil Pearson

01:17:13
Wagner
Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Margaret Price (Isolde)
Dresden Staatskapelle
Carlos Kleiber
DG 413 315 2
Disc 4
Track 7






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