Treason and Plot
Art Malik and Frances Barber read poetry and prose on the theme of treason and plot including work by Milton, Blake and Emily Dickinson and music by Haydn, Tavener and Donizetti.
It would seem ideas about treason and plot are always with us. Art Malik and Frances Barber evoke the French Revolution in Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, conspiracies in Shakespeare's Macbeth and Othello and the world of spies conjured by both John le Carré and Hilary Mantel; whilst the musical selections move us from Bonfire Night and fireworks via Stravinsky and Berlioz through to John Tavener's requiem for Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet who commemorated the struggles of the Russian people against the Soviet regime; and Nick Cave's Red Right Hand, which quotes a line from Milton's Paradise Lost referring to the vengeful hand of God, and has been newly popularised by the TV series Peaky Blinders.
Producer: Georgia Mann Smith.
Trad: The Fifth of November
Milton: Paradise Lost
Shakespeare: Othello Act I Scene III
Shakespeare: Macbeth Act I Scene V
Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
Anna Akhmatova: Requiem
Shakespeare: Julius Ceasar Act III, Scene 2
Shelley: The Mask of Anarchy
Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
Wordsworth: The Prelude
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Concord Hymn
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
The Fifth of November read by Art Malik
Paradise Lost read by Frances Barber
Othello Act 1, Scene 3 read by Art Malik
Macbeth Act I Scene V read by Frances Barber
Wolf Hall read by Art Malik
John le Carré
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold read by Frances Barber
The Gulag Archipelago read by Art Malik
Requiem read by Frances Barber
Julius Ceasar Act III, Scene 2 read by Art Malik
The Mask of Anarchy read by Frances Barber
A Tale of Two Cities read by Frances Barber
The Prelude read by Art Malik
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Concord Hymn read by Frances Barber
As sparklers, rockets and Catherine wheels light up the skies this weekend, Words and Music takes a trip to the darker side of Bonfire Weekend with the theme of Treason and Plot. We start with Guy Fawkes’ infamous scheme, with the ominous verse The Fifth of November heard over the menacing backdrop of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Stravinsky takes us soaring into the November sky with his Fireworks before Milton’s rich evocation of gunpowder in Paradise Lost explodes into Haydn’s Representation of Chaos from his oratorio The Creation. Milton’s charismatic Satan was partly inspired by Guy Fawkes and in turn, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds took inspiration in their Gothic ballad Red Right Hand from Paradise Lost.
From Guy Fawkes we move to two other villains, perhaps the greatest Shakespeare ever created: the scheming Iago from Othello and the awesome Lady Macbeth. Verdi’s aria ‘Credo in un Dio crudel’ from his opera Otello perfectly captures the darkness of Iago’s soul and the murky intrigue that permeates Shakespeare’s play.
We remain in the politically and religiously unstable world of the Tudors for an extract from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall in which the wily Cardinal Wolsey does his best to buy time as his luck runs out with the capricious Henry VIII. The Gloria from John Taverner’s Missa Corona spinea, (likely to have been written for Wolsey himself), is full of the grandeur and majesty of the Tudor age, with all its attendant drama.
A movement from Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 takes us into the hellish paranoia of Stalin’s Russia, an excerpt from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago reminds us of how everyday life was permeated by a culture of spying and political plotting.
Plotting might be a murky business but it’s also the route to revolution and social change. Mark Antony’s speech at Caesars funeral from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a masterclass in oratory and the unmasking of plotters. In Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy, the poet calls for an overthrow of the social order that to many at the time would have seemed treasonous.
The French Revolution sent shock waves across Europe, depictions of the civil strife there from both Dickens and Wordsworth demonstrate the shock and fear engendered by this blood soaked episode. Berlioz’s full throttle version of La Marseillaise and Chopin’s 'Revolutionary study' are full of the explosive tumult of that era. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn, written to commemorate the Battle of Concord which took place at the start of the American Revolution, offers a more reflective stance on those who pay the ultimate price for the political maneuvering and intrigue which can see nations fall and history made.