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Dante and Blake: The Seven Deadly Sins

Poems by Dante and William Blake interspersed with music by Wagner, Janacek and Tchaikovsky. The readers are Ray Fearon and Aoife Duffin.

In his Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri explores the cardinal vices of Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Covetousness, Gluttony and Lust. In his singular and influential model of the afterlife, he climbs the Mountain of Purgatory and encounters seven terraces, each home to penitents suffering torments according to their sin.

Another visionary poet, William Blake, was an equally individual artist and produced more than a hundred illustrations for Dante's masterwork. The themes of suffering and redemption, darkness and light, appealed to him as both painter and writer, and many of his poems match Dante for intensity and insight.

Extracts from Dante's Purgatory and Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience are read by Ray Fearon and Aoife Duffin while music includes Wagner, Janacek, Tchaikovsky and Miles Davis.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 24 Jul 2016 18:15

Music Played

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

  • Dante

    Inferno, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:00

    Richard Wagner

    Prelude (Parsifal)

    Performer: Vienna Philharmonic, Georg Solti.
    • Decca 4406062.
    • CD2 Tr4.
  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:03

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Symphony no.2 (London)

    Performer: LSO, Andre Previn.
    • RCA 82876557082.
    • CD2 Tr3.
  • Blake

    London, read by Aoife Duffin

  • 00:11

    LASSUS

    Lamentatio Tertia, Tertii Diei

    Performer: Ensemble Europeen de la Chapelle Royale, Philippe Herreweghe.
    • Harmonia Mundi HMC901299.
    • Tr9.
  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:18

    Leos Janáček

    Zarlivost

    Performer: Czech Philharmonic, Jiri Belohlavek.
    • Chandos CHAN9080.
    • Tr5.
  • Dante

    My Pretty Rose Tree, read by Aoife Duffin

  • 00:25

    Franz Schubert

    Heidenroslein

    Performer: Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau.
    • DG 4452942.
    • Tr13.
  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:27

    Giuseppe Verdi

    Requiem: Dies Irae

    Performer: Swedish Radio Chorus, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado.
    • EMI 5571682.
    • CD1 Tr3.
  • Blake

    A Poison Tree, read by Aoife Duffin

  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:33

    Miles Davis

    Freddie Freeloader

    • Sony 88697439232.
    • Tr2.
  • Blake

    The Schoolboy, read by Aoife Duffin

  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:40

    Felix Mendelssohn

    Hor mein Bitten

    Performer: Corydon Singers, Matthew Best.
    • Hyperion CDH55268.
    • Tr16.
  • Blake

    Letter, read by Aoife Duffin

  • 00:46

    Leonard Bernstein

    Mass: Meditation no.1

    Performer: Mstislav Rostropovich, Israel Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein.
    • DG 4159662.
    • Tr10.
  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:52

    Roussel

    Bacchus et Ariane: Bacchanale

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic, Yan Pascal Tortelier.
    • Chandos CHAN9494.
    • Tr21-22.
  • Blake

    Holy Thursday, read by Aoife Duffin

  • 00:57

    Engelbert Humperdinck

    Hansel und Gretel: Pantomine

    Performer: Bavarian Radio SO, Donald Runnicles.
    • Teldec 4509945492.
    • CD1 Tr17.
  • Dante

    Purgatorio, read by Ray Fearon

  • 01:04

    Schoenberg

    Moses und Aron: Dance of the Butchers

    Performer: Chicago SO, Georg Solti.
    • Decca 4142642.
    • CD2 Tr4.
  • Blake

    The Garden of Love, read by Aoife Duffin

  • 01:09

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Francesca da Rimini

    Performer: CBSO, Andris Nelsons.
    • Orfeo C860111A.
    • Tr1.

Producer's Note

In his Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri explores the cardinal vices of Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Covetousness, Gluttony and Lust. In his singular and influential model of the afterlife, he climbs the Mountain of Purgatory and encounters seven terraces, each home to penitents suffering torments according to their sin.  Another visionary poet, William Blake, was an equally individual artist and produced more than a hundred illustrations for Dante’s masterwork. The themes of suffering and redemption, darkness and light, appealed to him as both painter and writer, and many of his poems match Dante for intensity and insight.

As Dante’s traveller starts his journey, with music from Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Pride and its mirror penitence come from Vaughan Williams (his London Symphony) and a penitential psalm from Lassus.  Janacek’s overture Jealousy is a concise and terse evocation of envy - as is Blake’s poem My Pretty Rose Tree, soothed only by Schubert’s tender Heidenroslein.  Wrath here is the wrath of God: the Dies Irae from Verdi’s Requiem and a grim Wilfred Owen setting from Britten’s War Requiem. Miles Davis’s Freddie Freeloader is the epitome of sloth, deliciously lazy, while Blake’s view of covetousness as a religious infraction allows us to contract devotional Mendelssohn and almost sacrilegious Bernstein.  The gluttony of a bacchanal (in this case from Roussel’s ballet Bacchus et Ariane) stands in grim contrast to the desperate hunger of the starved children in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel; the lustful excess of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron in orgiastic contrast with the Dantean passion of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini and her lover.

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