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Texts and music on theme of Empire, with readings by Sian Thomas and Timothy West. Including Kipling, Forster, Derek Walcott, Langston Hughes, and music by Elgar, Debussy, Britten.

The quest to Empire-build - from the sixteenth century Spanish conquistadors to the nineteenth century British Raj - has inspired some powerful and enduring words and music. Readers Sian Thomas and Timothy West read poetry and prose which conjures both the era of empire, Rudyard Kiplings' 'The White Man's Burden' and Forster's 'A Passage to India', and the discomfort and melancholy of the post Imperial world, with Derek Walcott's 'Poems on the Passing of an Empire' and Langston Hughes' 'Roar China'. War poetry offers a disturbing glimpse into the darkest impulses of Empire-building with Hardy's plaintive Drummer Hodge and Wilfred Owen's coruscating 'Dulce et Decorum Est' before the heart-rending opening notes of the 'Sanctus' from Benjamin Britten's 'War Requiem'. Empire-building and enslavement are tragically bound together; in the negro spiritual 'Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen' - sung by Barbara Hendricks - and James Weldon Johnson's poem 'Lift Every Voice And Sing' we hear both the sorrowful reality - and joyful rejection - of slavery.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 30 Oct 2011 18:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Benjamin Britten

    Prelude from Gloriana

    Performer: Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras

    • Argo 440213-2.
  • Queen Elizabeth I

    From Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury

  • 00:03

    William Byrd

    O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth

    Performer: The Sarum Consort

    • Naxos 8.572582.
  • Shakespeare

    Extract from The Tempest

  • 00:06

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 'Kreutzer'

    Performer: Viktoria Mullova (violin), Kristian Bezuidenhout (piano)

    • Onyx ONYX4050.
  • 00:11

    Edward Elgar

    The Empire March

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis

    • Chandos CHAN1057(2).
  • Rudyard Kipling

    Extract from The White Man’s Burden

  • Robert Underwood Johnson

    The White Man’s Burden

  • 00:16

    Isaac Albéniz

    Evocacion from Iberia

    Performer: Alicia De Larrocha (piano)

    • EMI Classics 6294862.
  • Wilfred Campbell

    Extract from With Cortez in Mexico

  • 00:21

    Juan García de Zéspedes

    Convidando esta la noche

    Performer: The Harp Consort, directed by Andrew Lawrence-King

    • Harmonia Mundi HMU907293.
  • Derek Walcott

    Extract from Two Poems on the Passing of a Empire

  • 00:26


    Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen

    Performer: Barbara Hendricks (soprano), Dimitri Alexeev (piano)

    • EMI 7470262.
  • Robert Williams Buchanan


  • 00:30

    Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    1812 Overture

    Performer: Kirov Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev

    • Phllips 442011-2.
  • 00:34

    Claude Debussy

    Pagodes from Estampes

    Performer: Alexis Weissenberg (piano)

    • DG 415510-2.
  • Amy Lovell

    The Emperor’s Garden

  • Wilfred Owen

    Dulce et Decorum Est

  • 00:40

    Benjamin Britten

    Sanctus from The War Requiem

    Performer: Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano), The Bach Choir, Simon Preston (organ), Melos Ensemble, LSO, conducted by Benjamin Britten

    • Decca 414383-2.
  • Thomas Hardy

    Drummer Hodge

  • 00:47

    Ivor Gurney

    You are my sky

    Performer: Paul Agnew (tenor), Julius Drake (piano)

    • Hyperion CDA67243.
  • G.K. Chesterton


  • 00:51

    Edward Elgar

    'The Rule of England' from The Crown of India, Op. 66

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis

    • Chandos CHAN 1057(2).
  • 00:54

    Ravi Shankar

    Alap and Jor in Ragar Malkauns

    Performer: Ravi Shankar (sitar)

    • BGO BGOCD171.
  • E.M. Forster

    Extract from A Passage to India

  • 00:57

    Ottorino Respighi

    La Fontana di Valle Giulia all'alba from Fontane di Roma

    Performer: Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo

    • Ondine ODE1165-2.
  • C.P. Cavafy

    The Death of the Emperor Tacitus

  • 01:02

    Isaac Levy, Macico de Rosas

    Los Paxaricos

    Performer: Pierre Hamon (flute), Driss El Maloumi (oud), Hakan Gungor (Kanun), Dimitri Psonis (santur), Derya Turkan (Istanbul kemence), Murat Salim Tokac (tanbur), Haroun Taboul (tanbur a archet), Pedro Estevan (percussion), Jordi Savall (lyre a archet)

    • Alia Vox AVSA9870.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley


  • James Weldon Johnson

    Lift Every Voice and Sing

  • 01:09

    Sam Cooke

    A Change Is Gonna Come

    Performer: Sam Cooke

    • BMG 90219.


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