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Sunday 19 August 2007 22:15-0:00 (Radio 3)

Writer and broadcaster Armando Iannucci selects poetry, prose and music around the theme of authority, spanning gods, kings, the state and parents, and encompassing anarchy, rebellion and disobedience.

Including Pope's Essay on Man and excerpts from Milton's Paradise Lost, Primo Levi's If This Is A Man and Orwell's Shooting an Elephant, with music by Britten, Respighi, Joni Mitchell and Copland's Lincoln Portrait narrated by Margaret Thatcher.


1 hour 45 minutes


Diana Quick (reader) Diana Quick (reader)
Henry Goodman (reader) Henry Goodman (reader)
Armando Iannucci (curator) Armando Iannucci (curator)
Curators Notes:

Authority is not as authoritative as it seems. Very often we live in fear of powerful concepts like gods and devils that we ourselves have created while kings and dictators may rule by force, but their power over our beliefs is limited by the strength of our personal will and imagination. The words and music in this programme were chosen to reflect that ambiguity. Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost seems heroic and defiant, yet is objectively pathetic, trying to make a dank burning hell seem like his own mental paradise. Thomas Ades' 'Asyla' combines the defiant with the horrific, making a sound bordering on madness. Shakespeare's Prospero talks as if he has power over every aspect of the Tempest island, yet at the end of the sequence begs us to let him go free from our own imaginations. The God of John Adam's 'El Nino' sings 'I will shake all the nations', but sounds like a melodramatic contrivance.

The authority of armies and the law follow, The March to The Scaffold from Berlioz' 'Symphony Fantastique' is played in Liszt's piano transcription, over a reading from George Lius Borges amazing short story of a man, on the point of being executed, given the gift of a year of frozen time from God. Armies feature next, starting with Benjamin Britten's imperious War Requiem where the quiet, cruel words of Wilfred Owen are set against a grand and deliberately overbearing setting of the Latin Mass. Henry Reed's Second World War poem, ,Naming of Parts' follows, and we hear the final movement of Respighis' 'Pines of Rome', the Apennine Way, where scores of Roman Legions can be heard marching back to the Eternal City. From Joseph Heller's Catch 22 we move on to political power, with 'poems' by Donald Rumsfeld, and satire from Swift. Margaret Thatcher is the narrator in Copland's Lincoln Portrait, and we witness JS Bach encountering Frederick The Great of Prussia, offering a fawning dedication to him at the start of his 'Musical Offering' but slyly presenting the Emperor with fiendishly difficult music.

Shostakovich's music, so often superficially praising the glories of the soviet state while underneath subtly questioning it's authority takes us through a sequence about imperial power. George Orwell draws on his experiences as a young officer in British controlled Burma, pressurised by the natives to shoot a wild elephant, to show how tenuous and ambiguous total authority actually is. Primo Levi reaffirms the power of the will to overcome restrictions on freedom, and we are left with readings from The Book of Job and Herbert's 'The Collar' in which man's response to total godly authority defies explanation.

Armando Iannucci (curator)
Introduction by Armando Iannucci

Thomas Ades
Asyla (extract)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle (conductor)
EMI 7243 5 56818-2, track 4

John Milton
Paradise Lost (extract)
Diana Quick and Henry Goodman (readers)

Fats Waller, Andy Razaf
Ain't Misbehavin'
Art Tatum
Classics CLASSICS982, track 21

John Adams
El Nino: Shake The Heavens
Dawn Upshaw, Willard White, London Voices, Theatre of Voices, German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, Kent Nagano (conductor)
Nonesuch 79634-2, track 9

William Shakespeare
The Tempest (extract)
Henry Goodman (reader)

Jean Sibelius
The Tempest (extract)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Osmo Vanska (conductor)
BIS BISCD581, track 1

Hector Berlioz, transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt
Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold) from Symphonie Fantastique
Idil Biret (piano)
Naxos 8.550725, track 4

Jorge Luis Borges
The Secret Miracle
Diana Quick (reader)

Benjamin Britten
War Requiem: Offertorium (extract)
Philip Langridge (tenor), John Shirley-Quirk (bass), London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox (conductor)
Chandos CHAN89834, CD 1 track 3

Henry Reed
Naming of Parts
Henry Goodman (reader)

Ottorino Respighi
Pines of Rome: The Pines of the Appian Way
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner (conductor)
RCA 09026 68079 2, track 11

Joseph Heller
Catch 22 (extract)
Henry Goodman (reader)

Jean-Philippe Rameau
Overture to Zais
Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset (director)
Oiseau Lyre 4552932, track 3

William Wordsworth
The Power of Armies
Diana Quick (reader)

J.S. Bach
Dedication to Musical Offering
Henry Goodman (reader)

J.S. Bach
A Musical Offering: Canon a 2 quarendo invenietis (canon contrarium stricte reversum)
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Mariner (conductor)
Philips 412 800-2, track 11

Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels (extract)
Diana Quick (reader)

Aaron Copland
Lincoln Portrait: 'Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history'
Margaret Thatcher (reader), London Symphony Orchestra, Wyn Morris (conductor)
EMI Classics CDC 7 54539 2, track 4

Donald Rumsfeldt, arranged into poetry by Hart Seely
Looters and Vases - Diana Quick (reader)
Doing the Capable - Henry Goodman (reader)

Joni Mitchell
The Fiddle and the Drum
Joni Mitchell (voice)
Reprise K 244 070, track 9

Ludwig van Beethoven
Seven Variations on 'God Save the King' (WoO 78)
Olli Mustonen (piano)
Decca 436 834-2, track 4

George Orwell
Shooting an Elephant
Henry Goodman (reader)

Alexander Pope
Essay on Man
Diana Quick (reader)

Dmitri Shostakovich
String Quartet no.7 in F# minor (extract from last movement)
Brodsky Quartet
Teldec 9031717022, CD 3 track 10

Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby (extract)
Henry Goodman (reader)

Gustav Mahler
Symphony no.1, 3rd movement: Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen (extract)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly (conductor)
Decca 448 813-2, track 4

A.A. Milne
Henry Goodman (reader)

Gustav Mahler
Symphony no.1, 3rd movement: Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen (extract)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly (conductor)
Decca 448 813-2, track 4

Emily Dickinson
Far from love the Heavenly Father
Diana Quick (reader)

George Herbert
The Collar
Henry Goodman (reader)

Viderunt Omnes
Tonus Peregrinus, Antony Pitts (director)
Naxos 8.557340, track 3

Job 1:14-1:22
Diana Quick (reader)

Primo Levi
If this is a man
Henry Goodman (reader)

Joseph Haydn
The Creation (extract)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik (conductor)

William Shakespeare
The Tempest (extract)
Henry Goodman (reader)

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