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Summer Nights

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.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 14 Aug 2016 18:15

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Toru Takemitsu

    Toward the Sea – The Night

    Performer: Toronto New Music Ensemble.
    • NAXOS 8555859.
    • Tr3.
  • Henry Longfellow

    Oh, how beautiful, read by Sian Thomas

  • Seamus Heaney

    Night Drive, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:04

    Gabriel Fauré

    Après un Rêve

    Performer: Veronique Gens (soprano); Roger Vignoles (piano).
    • VIRGIN CLASSICS VC5453602.
    • Tr1.
  • John Clare

    Summer Evening, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:07

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Water Mill

    Performer: The Duke Quartet, Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano).
    • Tr4.
  • William Wordsworth

    from The Prelude, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:12

    Zoltán Kodály

    Summer Evening – Meno mosso (bar 340) - Tempo I

    Performer: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
    • Tr7.
  • Emily Brontë

    Moonlight, Summer Moonlight, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:17

    Frederick Delius

    Summer Night on the River

    Performer: Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner (conductor).
    • LONDON 4213902.
    • Tr6.
  • Walt Whitman

    Song read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:23

    Maurice Ravel

    String Quartet in F Major, 1903 – Assez Vif

    Performer: Avalon String Quartet.
    • Tr2.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

    from The Great Gatsby, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:30

    Miles Davis

    Once upon a Summertime

    Performer: Miles Davis with Gil Evans and his Orchestra.
    • CBS CD85556.
    • Tr2.
  • Carl Sandburg

    Summer Stars, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:34

    Claude Debussy

    Nuits d'etoiles

    Performer: Veronique Gens (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano).
    • VIRGIN CLASSICS VC5453602.
    • Tr15.
  • Sara Teasdale

    Summer Evening, Riverside, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:38

    Erik Satie

    Gymnopedie No. 1

    Performer: Pascal Rogé (piano).
    • DECCA 4102202.
    • Tr1.
  • T. S. Eliot

    From The Four Quartets, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:43

    Philip Glass

    'Hymn to the Sun' from Akhnaten

    Performer: Paul Esswood (counter tenor), Stuttgart State Opera, Orchestra and Chorus,.
    • SONY SBK64133.
    • Tr8.
  • Wallace Stevens

    The House was Quiet, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 00:50

    Samuel Barber

    Nocture, Op.33

    Performer: Michael Landrum (piano).
    • SONO LUMINUS DSL92158.
    • CD2 Tr7.
  • Langston Hughes

    Summer Night, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:55

    Olivier Messiaen

    Les Orioles

    Performer: Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung (conductor).
    • CD1 Tr2.
  • Carol Ann Duffy

    Midsummer Night, read by Sian Thomas

  • 00:57

    Felix Mendelssohn

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Notturno

    Performer: Wiener Philharmoniker, Andre Previn (conductor).
    • PHILIPS 420 161 2.
    • Tr6.
  • A. E. Housman

    Last Poems – When summer's end is nighing, read by Simon Russell Beale

  • 01:05

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Lark Ascending

    Performer: English Chamber Orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman (violin), Daniel Barenboim (conductor).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 419 748 2.
    • Tr1.

Producer's Notes

“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.

Fiona McLean


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