An Autumn Walk
Autumn is a season which has inspired composers and writers. In today's edition of Words and Music, a selection of poetry and music to celebrate autumn and walking in the leaves. Poetry read by Lesley Sharp and Julian Wadham.
Producer: Sarah Taylor
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
Rainer Maria Rilke
Autumn Day read by Julian Wadham
Louisa May Alcott
What the Swallows Did read by Lesley Sharp
Autumn read by Julian Wadham
Fall read by Lesley Sharp
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Autumn Song read by
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Autumn read by Lesley Sharp
Extract from Autumn Journal read by Julian Wadham
Blackberry Picking read by Lesley Sharp
To Autumn read by Lesley Sharp
Robert Louis Stevenson
Autumn Fires read by Julian Wadham
Autumn at Taos read by Julian Wadham
The Burning of the Leaves ready by Julian Wadham
Producer Note - An Autumn Walk
As Autumn begins this weekend, it seemed a perfect opportunity to set this week’s Words and Music around the theme of An Autumn Walk. It’s a subject which inspires composers and poets. And what strikes you when you begin to look and listen is how differently people respond to the season. Some writers like Rilke and Baudelaire see it as a season of departure and despair. Emily Bronte and Robert Louis Stevenson seem to welcome its arrival and relish the chance for a clean sweep and settling down to darker evenings.
The programme begins with the first movement of Stravinsky’s ‘Concerto in E flat major, Dumbarton Oaks’. I feel that an autumn walk is never complete without working out which trees the leaves on the ground have fallen from and when I was growing up, the easiest leaf for me to identify was the oak leaf. Whenever I listen to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks it takes me straight back to my childhood, going for a walk in the park with my parents after Sunday lunch and them teaching me how to identify trees from their different shaped leaves.
This is followed by Rilke’s poem ‘Autumn Day’ which introduces the idea of restlessness and the idea of blowing leaves. After which, I thought it was the right moment for Wynton Marsalis’ interpretation of the jazz classic ‘Autumn Leaves’.
After hearing from Emily Bronte who seems to welcome autumn, I’ve included a lovely duet with Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli, ‘September in the Rain’.
Dante Rosetti’s ‘Autumn Song’ follows and then musically we move from autumn rain to wind with one of Delius’ North Country Sketches, Autumn' (The Wind soughs in the trees)’. Delius is followed by ‘The Autumn’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’ve included this because it seems to me that she’s commanding the reader to go outside, walk up a hill and survey the surroundings and take time to appreciate the changing landscape both externally and internally.
Moving through the twentieth century, I included an extract from Louis MacNeice’s ‘Autumn Journal’. Published in May 1939 the passage focuses on the autumn of 1939 when the world was in a state of flux. It was striking how hopeful MacNeice seemed on the brink of war. He talks of how nature is invincible and I loved the line ‘And all of London littered with remembered kisses’. It made me think about all those dating ads which cite ‘like country walks’. Autumn is as good a time as any to go on a romantic walk!
I couldn’t resist putting in a movement from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. However, there’s a little twist. I’ve used the recently recorded version which features the violinist Daniel Hope which has been recomposed by Max Richter.
‘Autumn Fires’ by Robert Louis Stevenson follows this novel arrangement and introduces the theme of bonfires. I do love that secret bonfire smell which you get around this time of year – you can’t quite see them but you can smell someone somewhere getting on with the gardening chores.
An extract from Haydn’s ‘Herbst’ follows then we move to DH Lawrence’s evocative account of ‘Autumn At Taos’. One of the joys of growing older is the layers of new memories you have of seasons from different places. As I’ve moved around the country I have different autumnal memories, Yorkshire landscapes, London landscapes and I enjoyed reading DH Lawrence’s description of ‘Autumn at Taos’, so different from his native Nottinghamshire!
The programme ends with Laurence Binyon’s ‘The Burning of the Leaves’. More bonfire smells, heralding November and memories of Bonfire Night but also a hint of nature recreating everything in springtime.
Why don’t you take advantage of playlister and download some of the music tracks to accompany you on your own autumn walk?
Producer: Sarah Taylor