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TS Eliot

A special edition of music and poetry read by Simon Russell Beale to mark the 50th anniversary of T.S. Eliot's death with poems including Four Quartets, The Waste Land, Marina and Landscapes and music by Thomas Ades, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Chopin.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Jan 2015 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Frédéric Chopin

    Prelude in G Major

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • DECCA 4174762.
    • Tr3.
  • T.S.Eliot

    Landscapes – New Hampshire read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Quartet in A Minor op 132

    Performer: Emerson String Quartet.
    • GG 474743412.
    • Tr4.
  • T.S.Eliot

    Four Quartets Burnt Norton read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Sofia Gubaidulina

    Hommage a T.S. Eliot

    Performer: Gidon Kremer and Octet.
    • Tr7.
  • T.S.Eliot

    The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock read by T.S. Eliot

  • 00:00

    Roger Quilter

    How should I your true love know?

    Performer: Jonathan Lemalu and Malcolm Martineau.
    • EMI 5580502.
    • Tr3.
  • 00:00

    Jean Sibelius

    The Tempest - Intermezzo

    Performer: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Jarvi.
    • BIS CD448.
    • 13.
  • T.S.Eliot

    Marina read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Frank Martin

    Full Fathom Five

    Performer: Phoenix Bach Choir conducted by Charles Bruffy.
    • CHANDOS CHSA5031.
    • Tr9.
  • T.S. Eliot

    La Figlia che Piange read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Antonio Vivaldi


    Performer: Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra.
    • LASERLIGHT 15807.
    • Tr2.
  • 00:00

    Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Suite from ‘Cats’

    Performer: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tony Britten.
    • PICKWICK PWKS4115.
    • Tr3.
  • T.S. Eliot

    Gus the Theatre Cat read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Ottorino Respighi

    La Boutique Fantasque – Tarantella

    Performer: Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner.
    • PHILIPS 4204852.
    • Tr11.
  • T.S. Eliot

    A Dedication to my Wife read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Frederick Loewe

    On the street where you live

    Performer: Leonard Weir.
    • Tr10.
  • 00:00

    Max Richter


    Performer: Max Richter.
    • FAT CAT CD1311.
    • Tr4.
  • T.S. Eliot

    The Waste Land – The Fire Sermon read by Simon Russell Beale and Paul Scofield

  • 00:00

    Béla Bartók

    String Quartet no 4

    Performer: Takács Quartet.
    • HUNGAROTON HCD12502042.
    • Tr9.
  • T.S. Eliot

    Prelude read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Quartet for Oboe in F Major

    Performer: The Netherlands String Quartet.
    • GLOBE GLO6037.
    • Tr10.
  • T.S. Eliot

    Chorus from The Rock read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Vincent Persichetti

    The Hollow Men

    Performer: Chris Gecker.
    • KOCH 372822.
    • Tr11.
  • 00:00

    Igor Stravinsky

    The Dove Descending Breaks the Air

    Performer: New London Chamber Choir conducted by James Wood.
    • HYPERION CDA66410.
    • Tr24.
  • T.S. Eliot

    Four Quartets – Little Gidding read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:00

    Thomas Adès

    ….but all shall be well

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle.
    • EMI CDC5568182.
    • Tr13.

Producer Note

This week’s Words and Music is a special edition which marks the 50th anniversary of the death of T.S. Eliot with words by the poet and music which he admired and was inspired by and work inspired in turn by him.

Beethoven was perhaps the composer best loved by Eliot. In 1931 he wrote to Stephen Spender: ‘I have the A Minor Quartet on the gramophone, and I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly, or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.’ The late Quartet in A Minor op 132 was even said by Eliot to have been the inspiration behind his masterpiece, ‘Four Quartets’. Here you’ll hear it alongside Simon Russell Beale reading from ‘Burnt Norton’. That’s followed by the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina’s ‘Hommage a T.S. Eliot’ written after she had read ‘Four Quartets’ and found herself responding to the spiritual elements expressed in the poem.

T.S. Eliot himself reads from ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, published in 1917 and seen as marking a huge cultural shift from the pre-war period towards modernism. Its many references to Hamlet are echoed in Roger Quilter’s ‘How should I your true love know?’ sung beautifully by Jonathan Lemalu with piano accompaniment by Malcolm Martineau. Shakespeare too was the inspiration for Eliot’s ‘Marina’, which retells the story of Pericles’ long-lost daughter. There are also echoes of ‘The Tempest’ and the poem is heard with the ‘Intermezzo’ from Sibelius’ ‘Tempest Suite’ and Frank Martin’s ‘Full Fathom Five’.

In the 1930s T.S. Eliot published his ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, poems written for his godchildren. You’ll hear Simon read ‘Gus, the theatre cat’ which must have been inspired in part by the poet’s love of the theatre.  In his early years he was a huge fan of music hall and a great admirer of Marie Lloyd. The Old Possum poems were, of course, the inspiration for one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most successful musical, ‘Cats’, which has just been revived in London.

In 1957 Eliot married his second wife, Valerie. It was a very happy marriage and Simon reads ‘A Dedication to my Wife’ which shows a very unexpected side to the poet. It’s followed by ‘On the street where you live’ from the musical, ‘My Fair Lady’, a show much enjoyed by Eliot : he’s said to have liked it far more than ‘Pygmalion’.

Max Richter’s one act ballet ‘Infra’ was inspired by ‘The Waste Land’ and is heard with a section from ‘The Fire Sermon’ read by Simon and Paul Scofield.

 A chorus from ‘The Rock’ is followed by the American composer Vincent Persichetti’s ‘ The Hollow Men’, based on Eliot’s 1944 poem.’

The programme ends with ‘Little Gidding’, the final part of Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. The lyrics in Stravinsky’s ‘The Dove Descending’ are from the fourth section of the poem. Stravinsky was the only internationally renowned composer to set Eliot’s words to music during the poet’s lifetime and the work was performed at Eliot’s memorial service in February 1965 at Westminster Abbey.  The two had met in 1956 at the Savoy Hotel in London where they talked about dance and Tristan and Isolde.

Simon’s reading of the end of ‘Four Quartets’ is followed by Thomas Ades’ ‘…..but all shall be well’, inspired by the poem and Eliot’s hard won optimism expressed in his final words that:

‘..all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into  the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.’



  • Sun 4 Jan 2015 17:30

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