Poetry and music exploring summer nights including work by Carol Ann Duffy, John Clare, William Wordsworth, AE Housman, Vaughan Williams, Toru Takemitsu, Delius, Zoltan Kodaly and Philip Glass. The readers are Simon Russell Beale and Sian Thomas.
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
Oh, how beautiful, read by Sian Thomas
Night Drive, read by Simon Russell Beale
Summer Evening, read by Sian Thomas
from The Prelude, read by Simon Russell Beale
Moonlight, Summer Moonlight, read by Sian Thomas
Song read by Simon Russell Beale
F. Scott Fitzgerald
from The Great Gatsby, read by Sian Thomas
Summer Stars, read by Simon Russell Beale
Summer Evening, Riverside, read by Sian Thomas
T. S. Eliot
From The Four Quartets, read by Simon Russell Beale
The House was Quiet, read by Simon Russell Beale
Summer Night, read by Sian Thomas
Carol Ann Duffy
Midsummer Night, read by Sian Thomas
A. E. Housman
Last Poems When summer's end is nighing, read by Simon Russell Beale
“Oh, how beautiful is the summer night, which is not night, but a sunless, yet unclouded day, descending upon earth with dews and shadows and refreshing coolness” was how the American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described the twilight hours. For this week’s Words and Music I’ve chosen poetry, prose and music reflecting the final hours on a summer’s day. The English landscape is evoked in Vaughan Williams' setting of “The Water Mill” by Fredegond Shove and in John Clare’s “Summer Evening” in which he captures the fearful animals, insects and birds disturbed by ‘proud man’. William Wordsworth’s moonlit journey up the mountainside from “ The Prelude” leads to Zoltan Kodaly’s “Summer Evening”, a work the composer described as being “conceived on summer evenings, amidst harvested cornfields, over the ripples of the Adriatic”.
American summers are evoked in the description of one of the famous parties in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” where, in Gatsby’s blue gardens, there is a “sea-change of faces and voices under the constantly changing light” heard with Miles Davis’ “Once upon a Summertime”. The overwhelming heat of New York is brilliantly caught by Langston Hughes and by Sara Teasdale’s description of the ‘fragrant darkness’ of the Hudson river.
T.S. Eliot’s mysterious evocation of the summer midnight rituals of man and woman “in daunsinge, signifying matrimonie” is heard with Philip Glass’ “Hymn to the Sun” from Akhnaten. Carol Ann Duffy’s” The Midsummer Night” is heard with Mendelssohn’s Notturno from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Wallace Stevens’ poem, ”The House was Quiet and the World was Calm”, captures the calm of the poet’s home as he sits reading a book alongside the calm of the universe on a summer night and the poet’s desire to be one “to whom The summer night is like a perfection of thought”. The poem is heard with the American composer Samuel Barber’s “Nocturne”, a piano setting which may well be exploring a similar ‘access of perfection’ to Stevens’ poet’s dream.
Summer Nights ends with A. E. Housman’s “When Summer’s End is Nighing”, an elegy for lost youth which ends with the hope of a new beginning. As summer’s end nears the poet’s heart is reawakened:
‘The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.’
Words and Music ends with Vaughan Williams' “The Lark Ascending”, his beautiful evocation of the English countryside, written on the eve of war in 1914 and imagining the losses to come.
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