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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

13 days left to listen

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Sun 3 Nov 2019 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie Fantastique: Dream of a Witches Sabbath

    Performer: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch (conductor).
    • RCA GD86720.
    • Tr 3.
  • TRAD

    The Fifth of November read by Art Malik

  • 00:01

    Igor Stravinsky

    Fireworks (Op.4)

    Performer: Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky (conductor).
    • SONY SM3K46291.
    • Tr 25.
  • 00:05


    In nomine for 7 viols in G minor 'Dorian', Z747

    Performer: Fretwork.
    • VIRGIN VC5450622.
    • Tr 16.
  • Milton

    Paradise Lost read by Frances Barber

  • 00:06

    Joseph Haydn

    The Creation: The Representation of Chaos

    Performer: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Rene Jacobs (conductor).
    • HARMONIA MUNDI HMC972039.40.
    • Tr 1.
  • 00:10

    Mick Harvey, Nick Cave and Thomas Wydler

    Red Right Hand

    Performer: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
    • MUTE CDMUTE172.
    • Tr 1.
  • Shakespeare

    Othello Act 1, Scene 3 read by Art Malik

  • 00:16


    Otello - dramma lirico in 4 acts, Act 2; Credo in un Dio crudel [Iago]

    Performer: Bryn Terfel (bass baritone), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paul Daniel (conductor).
    • DG 4778091.
    • Tr 4.
  • Shakespeare

    Macbeth Act I Scene V read by Frances Barber

  • 00:22


    Lady Mary Hey's Scots Measure

    Performer: Jordi Savall (treble viol), Andrew Lawrence King (harp).
    • ALIA VOX AVSA9865.
    • Tr 18.
  • Hilary Mantel

    Wolf Hall read by Art Malik

  • 00:26

    John Taverner

    Missa Corona spinea: Gloria

    Performer: Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (director).
    • Tr 1.
  • John le Carré

    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold read by Frances Barber

  • 00:33

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    String Quartet No. 8 Op. 110, IV Largo

    Performer: The Medici Quartet.
    • NIMBUS NI5077.
    • Tr 4.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The Gulag Archipelago read by Art Malik

  • 00:39

    John Tavener

    Akhmatova Requiem, 1st Mvt.

    Performer: Phyllis Bryn-Julson (soprano), BBC SO, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (conductor).
    • CARLTON CLASSICS 1565691972.
    • Tr 1.
  • Anna Akhmatova

    Requiem read by Frances Barber

  • 00:41

    John Tavener

    Akhmatova Requiem, last Mvt.

    Performer: Phyllis Bryn-Julson (soprano), BBC SO, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (conductor).
    • CARLTON CLASSICS 1565691972.
    • Tr 18.
  • Shakespeare

    Julius Ceasar Act III, Scene 2 read by Art Malik

  • 00:45

    Pauline Hall

    1. Forspill / Prelude from Suite from the play "Julius Cæsar"

    Performer: The Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra, Christian Eggen (conductor).
    • SIMAX PSC 3105.
    • Tr 5.
  • Shelley

    The Mask of Anarchy read by Frances Barber

  • 00:50

    Trad arr. Martin Carthy/Ernest Jones

    The Song of the Lower Classes

    Performer: Martin Carthy.
    • Tr 14.
  • Dickens

    A Tale of Two Cities read by Frances Barber

  • 00:57

    Hector Berlioz

    La Marseillaise, arr. for double chorus and orchestra [after Rouget]

    Performer: Marcel Vanaud (baritone), Francois Le Roux (baritone), Francoise Pollet (soprano), Tibere Raffalli (tenor), Olivier Picard (soprano), Toulouse Capitol Orchestra, Toulouse Capitole Choir, Michel Plasson (conductor).
    • EMI CDC 749470 2.
    • Tr 8.
  • Wordsworth

    The Prelude read by Art Malik

  • 01:04

    Frédéric Chopin

    12 Studies for piano (Op.10), no.12 in C minor; 'Revolutionary study'

    Performer: Murray Perahia.
    • Tr 12.
  • 01:07


    Stone Grinds All

    Performer: American Fife Ensemble.
    • NEW WORLD RECORDS, 80276-2.
    • Tr 17.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Concord Hymn read by Frances Barber

  • 01:10

    William Billings

    Lamentation Over Boston

    Performer: The Continental Harmony Singers, conducted by Thomas Pyle.
    • NEW WORLD RECORDS, 80276-2.
    • Tr 2.

Producer note

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. 


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