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Obsession: Texts and music on the theme of obsession. Readings by Olivia Colman and Toby Stephens. With Ian McEwan, Wilde and Melville, plus Berlioz, Schubert, Wagner, Cole Porter.

"Obsession requires a commendable mental agility", according to Nick Hornby and this edition of Words and Music wrestles with ideas that inexorably take hold of the brain. Readers are Olivia Colman and Toby Stephens.

There is nothing more absorbing than being in the throes of love, and the more unrequited it is, the more obsessive the lover becomes - from the idée fixe of Berlioz, in his almost gothic passion for Harriet Smithson, to the hormone-fuelled obsession with the teen idol, as suffered by the young Allison Pearson.

But this passion can disintegrate into something more sinister, and so enter the stalker, courtesy of Ian McEwan and The Police, and the narcissist, taken to fantastical extreme in The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

And there are those whose minds work in a way they struggle to control - Dr Johnson may have had a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, there is the hoarder, the hypochondriac, and the keeper and interpreter of minutiae, like Nick Hornby's football obsessive.

And finally the all-absorbing, all-encompassing epic grand passion, the inability to concentrate on anything else - Ahab's quest for the white whale, and the Arthurian knight's mission to find the Holy Grail.

Music from jazz, pop, rock and classical, including Cole Porter's rather unsettling (in this context) "Night and Day", the romanticism of Schubert, Berlioz and Wagner, and the joyous piling up of insistent ostinati by Herbie Hancock.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 24 Jul 2011 22:15

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Cole Porter

    Night and Day

    Performer: Ella Fitzgerald

    • Verve.
    • 5372-572.
  • W. B. Yeats

    Never give all the heart, reader Olivia Colman

  • Pierre de Ronsard

    Sonnets For Hélène, reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:03

    Anatoly Alexandrov

    Obsession passee (A Long-Forgotten Madness) Op 6 (epilogue)

    • Hyperion.
    • CDA 67328.
  • Hector Berlioz, trans. David Cairns

    The Memoirs of Berlioz (excerpt), reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:05

    Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie fantastique Op.14

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim (conductor)

    • CBS.
    • MK-39859.
  • 00:10

    Federico Mompou

    6 Charmes for piano

    Performer: Elena Riu (piano)

    • Linn Records.
    • CKD-111.
  • William Shakespeare

    Sonnett VII, reader Olivia Colman

  • 00:12

    Stephen Sondheim

    Losing My Mind

    Performer: Barbara Cook

    • 09026619922-NA.
  • Ian McEwan

    Enduring Love (excerpt), reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:18

    The Police

    Every Breath You Take

    Composer: Gordon Matthew Sumner

    • A&M.
    • EVECD-1.
  • Rosamond Lehmann

    Dusty Answer (excerpt), reader Olivia Colman

  • Robert Browning

    You'll Love Me Yet, reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:24

    Franz Schubert

    Die Schone Mullerin - song-cycle D.795

    Performer: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Gerald Moore (piano)

    • EMI Classics.
    • 7 63559 2.
  • Alison Pearson

    I think I Love You (excerpt), reader Olivia Colman

  • 00:31

    David Cassidy


    Composer: Terry Kirkman

    • Arista.
    • 260-364.
  • 00:35

    Philip Glass

    Glassworks (opening)

    Performer: Philip Glass (piano)

    • CBS.
    • MK-73640.
  • Nick Hornby

    Fever Pitch (excerpt), reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:39

    Herbie Hancock

    Watermelon Man

    Performer: Herbie Hancock

    • Columbia/Legacy.
    • CK-65123.
  • Shel Silverstein

    Hector the Collector, reader Olivia Colman

  • Jerome K. Jerome

    Three Men in a Boat (excerpt), reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:45

    Antonio Valente

    Gallarda napolitana for keyboard [Intavolatura de cimbalo...libro 1o,1576]

    Performer: Jordi Savall (director), Hesperion XXI

    • Alia Vox.
    • AV-9820.
  • James Boswell

    The Life of Johnson (excerpt), reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:51

    Eugène Ysaÿe

    Sonata No. 2 in A minor Op.27`2 (Obsession)

    Performer: Philippe Graffin (violin)

    • Hyperion.
    • CDA-66940.
    • 5.
  • 00:53

    Robert Schumann

    Waldscenen Op. 82 for piano

    Performer: Varda Nishry (piano)

    • Decca.
    • 425-505-2.
    • -19.
  • Oscar Wilde

    The Picture of Dorian Gray (excerpt), reader Olivia Colman

  • John Updike

    Perfection Wasted, reader Toby Stephens

  • 00:57

    Richard Strauss

    Don Quixote Op.35

    Performer: Emanuel Feuermann (cello), Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy (conductor)

    • Sony.
    • SBK 47656.
    • -12.
  • 01:03

    Henri Dutilleux

    Metaboles for orchestra

    Performer: Toulouse Capitole Orchestra, Michel Plasson (conductor)

    • EMI.
    • 5 57143 2.
  • Herman Melville

    Moby Dick (excerpt), reader Olivia Colman

  • John Masefield

    The Ballad of Sir Bors, reader Toby Stephens

  • 01:08

    Richard Wagner - Parsifal - opera in 3 acts

    Conductor: Performer: Welsh National Opera Orchestra, Welsh National Opera Chorus, Reginald Goodall (conductor)


  • Sun 24 Jul 2011 22:15

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