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Paul McGann and Hermione Norris are the readers in a sequence of poetry, prose and music on the subject of twilight, including texts by Dickens, Hardy and Shakespeare and music by Schubert, Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 18 Aug 2013 18:15

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Richard Strauss

    Four Last Songs, No.3: Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep)

    Performer: Herbert von Karajan. Performer: Gundula Janowitz. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • DG 423 888-2.
    • Tr7.
  • James Joyce

    The Dubliners. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:07

    Terje Isungset


    Performer: Terje Isungset (Ice Concerts).
    • ICE MUSIC ALL ICE 0804.
    • Tr3.
  • James Joyce

    The Twilight Turns from Amethyst. Read by Hermione Norris

  • 00:08

    Thelonious Monk

    Crepuscule with Nellie

    Performer: Thelonious Monk Quartet.
    • COLUMBIA 472991 2.
    • Tr8.
  • John Clare

    Twilight Read by Hermione Norris

  • 00:12

    Iro Haarla

    Winter Twilight

    Performer: Pro Haarla, Pepa Paivinen.
    • NOVEMEBER NVR 2017-2.
    • Tr7.
  • George MacDonald

    Phantastes – A Faerie Romance for Men and Women. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:14

    Felix Mendelssohn

    Midsummer Night's Dream, Scherzo

    Orchestra: Deutsches Symphonie‐Orchester Berlin. Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • DECCA 440 296 2.
    • Tr2.
  • William Shakespeare

    Sonnet 73. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:20

    Claude Debussy, arranged Heifetz

    Beau Soir

    Performer: Janine Jansen. Performer: Itamar Golan.
    • DECCA 478 2256.
    • Tr4.
  • Cormac McCarthy

    Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West. Read by Hermione Norris

  • Walt Whitman

    Twilight Song. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:24

    John Adams

    The Wound Dresser

    Performer: Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Conductor: John Adams.
    • ELEKTRA NONESUCH 979218 2.
    • Tr2.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The Great Gatsby. Read by Hermione Norris

  • 00:31

    Cecil Mack


    Performer: Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra. Composer: James P. Johnson.
    • ASV CDAJA5170.
    • Tr3.
  • Charles Dickens

    Bleak House. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:36

    Raymond Scott

    Twilight in Turkey

    Performer: Raymond Scott (Manhattan Research Inc.).
    • BASTA 3090782 CD1.
    • Tr22.
  • 00:37

    Toru Takemitsu

    Twill by Twilight

    Orchestra: Yomiuti Nippon Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Tadaaki Otaka.
    • ASV CDDCA 1021.
    • Tr2.
  • Carl Sandburg

    Dreams in the dusk. Read by Hermione Norris

  • Giuseppe Tomas di Lampedusa, trans. Archibald Colquhoun

    The Leopard. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:41

    Giuseppe Verdi

    Quattro Pezzi Sacri, No.1: Ave Maria

    Performer: Los Angeles Master Chorale. Conductor: Roger Wagner.
    • DECCA 421 608-2 CD2.
    • Tr8.
  • WB Yeats

    Into the Twilight. Read by Hermione Norris

  • 00:47

    Christian Wallumrød

    A Year from Easter

    Performer: Christian Wallumrød Ensemble.
    • ECM 982 4132.
    • Tr9.
  • Charlotte Bronte

    Jane Eyre. Read by Hermione Norris

  • 00:53

    Franz Schubert

    Irlicht from Winterreise

    Performer: Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau. Performer: Alfred Brendel.
    • PHILIPS411 563 2.
    • Tr9.
  • 00:55

    Edward Williams

    Comb Jellies – Hydromedusae – "Birth" of a Medusa – Gymnopedie for Jellyfish

    Performer: Edward Williams.
    • Tr3.
  • John Clare

    Prose on Will with a Whisp. Read by Paul McGann

  • 00:57

    Franz Liszt

    Transcendental Studies, No.5: Feux follets

    Performer: Alice Sara Ott.
    • DG 477 9181.
    • Tr5.
  • DH Lawrence

    Twilight. Read by Hermione Norris

  • 01:02

    Richard Strauss

    Four Last Songs, No.2: September

    Performer: Gundula Janowitz. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • DG 423 888-2.
    • Tr6.
  • Thomas Hardy

    The Darkling Thrush . Read by Hermione Norris

  • William Wordsworth

    Hail, Twilight. Read by Paul McGann

  • 01:09


    Sail to the Moon

    Performer: Radiohead. Performer: Radiohead.
    • PARLOPHONE 584 543 2.
    • Tr3.

Producer's Note

This episode explores the shadowy and uncertain world of twilight in literature, with music that reflects this theme and the mood of the selected texts.  These are prose descriptions of the natural phenomenon and poems in which twilight is subject or metaphor. 


The first two texts are by James Joyce: a young boy’s experience of winter dusk in the backstreets of early twentieth century Dublin from the story Araby, followed by the lyrical verse of Chamber Music, and The Twilight Turns from Amethyst.  Accompanying these texts is ice music by the Norwegian instrument builder Terje Isungset and Thelonious Monk’s Crepuscule with Nellie.


The sensory experience of woodland at dusk provides the backdrop for John Clare’s poem and the passage that follows from George MacDonald’s ‘Faerie Romance’ Phantastes, in which the sounds convey a “condensed atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing”; with this we hear fragments of Iro Haarla’s Winter Twilight for harp and alto flute and the spritely scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.


The Whitman and McCarthy texts are both twilight reflections on the unknown soldier in nineteenth century America – inspired by the sparse landscape of the Mexican borderlands in Blood Meridian, and in Twilight Song by those who lost their lives in the American Civil War.  Whitman’s poem is followed by the concluding passage of John Adams’ setting of another Whitman poem, The Wound-Dresser, which drew on the author’s experience as a wartime nurse.


New York’s Long Island in the 1920s: Paul Whiteman’s recording of The Charleston is the soundtrack to a decadant beachside party getting underway in F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby.  Meanwhile the dying light plays tricks on the eye in Dickens’ Bleak House as the Dedlock ancestral portraits come to life, a hallucinatory scene echoed in mood by the quirky electronium of Raymond Scott.


The second piece of John Clare is prose, recounting a sighting by the author of a will-o’-the-wisp, that mysterious, ghostly light that leads travelers astray on marshland at night.  The ignis fatuus has inspired several works in this sequence, including Schubert’s song Irrlicht from Winterreise, Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre and Liszt’s Feux follets from the Transcendental Etudes.  Lurking beneath the Clare is an unlikely but somehow fitting companion: Edward Williams’ music for a television programme about jellyfish from the BBC’s natural history series Life on Earth.


The twilight of an era is the subject of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard set in Sicily during the Risorgimento.  In this scene the parish priest, a pair of landowners and an old herbalist are among the glum gathering at dusk of local figures awaiting the latest news of Garibaldi’s advancing forces. That novel starts with a description of a pungent and putrid garden in which the story’s prince protagonist contemplates his mortality; a link to Strauss’s setting of Herman Hesse, which like Shakespeare’s Sonnet No.73 earlier on in the sequence, compares old age to seasonal decay, as “Summer smiles, astonished and feeble, at his dying dream of a garden.”


Producer: Felix Carey

Hermione Norris

Hermione Norris

Paul McGann

Paul McGann


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