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The Seven Deadly Sins

Adjoa Andoh and Rory Kinnear explore human sins with poetry by Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Carol Ann Duffy and Stevie Smith and music by Kurt Weill, Mahler and Takemitsu.

Adjoa Andoh and Rory Kinnear visit the sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth with poetry and prose by Milton, Carol Ann Duffy, Spenser, Shakespeare, Stevie Smith, Emily Dickinson and Christopher Marlowe and music by Kurt Weill, Mahler, Takemitsu, Verdi and Shostakovich. Rory and Adjoa explore the misery of sin experienced by Hamlet, Iago and Lady Macbeth alongside the idle enjoyment felt by Huckleberry Finn, the exhilaration on discovering that Einstein was a fellow Scot and the thrill of a feast in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Producer: Fiona McLean

1 hour, 14 minutes

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    George Frideric Handel

    Concerto 1 - Allegro

    Performer: Academy of St. Martins-in-the-Fields, Iona Brown (Conductor).
    • Philips 4100482.
    • Tr4.
  • Christopher Marlowe

    Dr Faustus, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:03

    Leos Janáček

    Overture: Jealousy

    Performer: Czech Philharmonic, Jiri Belohlavek (Conductor).
    • Chandos Chan 9080.
    • Tr5.
  • William Shakespeare

    Othello, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:09

    Thomas Campion

    Fire, fire, fire, fire! (The Third Booke of Ayres (1617) XX)

    Performer: Steven Rickards (Countertenor), Dorothy Linell (Lute).
    • Naxos 8553380.
    • Tr8.
  • Carol Ann Duffy

    Warming Her Pearls, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:13

    Claude Debussy

    Chansons de Bilitis – La flûte de Pan

    Performer: Véronique Gens (Soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano).
    • Virgin Classics VC 5453602.
    • Tr9.
  • William Shakespeare

    Othello, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:17

    Kurt Weill

    The Seven Deadly Sins – Unzucht (Lust)

    Performer: Marianne Faithful, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Dennis Russell Davies (Conductor).
    • RCA 74321601192.
    • Tr6.
  • 00:22

    Toru Takemitsu

    Masque for Two Flutes - Continu

    Performer: Auréole Trio with Patricia Manson (flute).
    • KOCH 374492.
    • Tr3.
  • Emily Dickinson

    Wild Nights, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • Ted Hughes

    Echo and Narcissus, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:26

    Antonio Vivaldi

    Concerto for Flute, Strings and Harpsichord in G Minor, Op.10 no.2 "La Notte" – Largo - Presto

    Performer: Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (Conductor).
    • Tr3.
  • Ben Jonson

    On Gut, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:28

    Robert Beaser

    Choral Variations for Orchestra - The Seven Deadly Sins - Gluttony

    Performer: Jan Opalach (Bass-baritone), American Composers Orchestra, Dennis Russell Davies (Conductor).
    • ARGO 4403372.
    • Tr7.
  • Robert Burton

    from The Anatomy of Melancholy, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:32

    Camille Saint‐Saëns

    Danse Macabre, Op.40

    Performer: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi (Conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHSA 5104.
    • Tr4.
  • Edmund Spenser

    The Faerie Queene, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:38

    Modest Mussorgsky

    Pictures At An Exhibition - VI. Samuel Goldenberg Und Schmuyle

    Performer: Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 439 013 2.
    • Tr15.
  • Charles Dickens

    A Christmas Carol, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:42

    George Frideric Handel

    Alexander’s Feast - Allegro

    Performer: Academy for Ancient Music Berlin.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI HMX 2901685.
    • Tr21.
  • Stevie Smith

    Alone in the Woods, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:46

    Giuseppe Verdi

    Messa da Requiem – Sequenza - Dies Irae

    Performer: Sinfonie Orchester und Chor des WDR Koln.
    • IDIS IDIS 656768.
    • CD1 Tr3.
  • John Milton

    Paradise Lost, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:49

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    Symphony No.10, Op.93 - Allegro

    Performer: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mariss Jansons (Conductor).
    • EMI CDC 5552322.
    • Tr2.
  • William Shakespeare

    Julius Caesar, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 00:54

    Giuseppe Verdi

    Macbeth - Prelude

    Performer: Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lamberto Gardelli.
    • HUNGAROTON HCD12738402.
    • CD1 Tr1.
  • William Shakespeare

    Macbeth, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:57

    Hamish MacCunn

    Six Scotch Dances - Dirk Dance

    Performer: Murray McLachlan.
    • DIVINE ART 25003.
    • Tr4.
  • Robert Crawford

    Alba Einstein, read by Rory Kinnear

  • 01:01

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le Nozze di Figaro – Voiche sapete

    Performer: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), John Pritchard (Conductor).
    • EMI CDC7479502.
    • Tr10.
  • Jane Austen

    Pride and Prejudice, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 01:04

    Jean Sibelius

    Melodrama from Svartsjukans Natter – (Nights of Jealousy), JS 125 (1893)

    Performer: Laura Vikman (violin), Joel Laakso (cello), Folke Gräsbeck (piano).
    • BIS CD1412.
    • Tr11.
  • Mark Twain

    Huckleberry Finn, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 01:08

    Ferde Grofé

    Grand Canyon Suite: Grand Canyon Suite: I. Sunrise

    Performer: New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Enrique Bátiz (Conductor).
    • CDC 7 49056 2.
    • Tr1.

Producer's Notes:


The Seven Deadly Sins are a list of what was - and is - seen in the church as cardinal sins, the worst vices that cut someone off from God’s grace, sins with roots in the human desire for excess.  They are envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, greed, extravagance and lust and pride.  They have inspired writers and composers for centuries.  A few years ago one of the Pope’s close allies, Monsignor Girotti, suggested that we should be thinking of new list of modern sins.  For him those sins are carrying out experiments on human beings, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, inducing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs are the new sins.  Perhaps, like him, we all have a sense of what we consider a sin. 

We begin with Christopher Marlowe’s Renaissance play ‘Dr Faustus’ in which the demon Mephistopheles introduces Faustus to the seven deadly sins.  Envy tells that he cannot read and so wishes that all books be destroyed, Sloth is so shattered he cannot be bothered to describe himself.  Faustus finds the sins laughable, Marlowe’s way of showing us that he is on the side of the devil.  Janacek’s overture ‘Zarlivost’ or ‘Jealousy’ begins with thundering tympani and fury and was written as the opening to an opera about a violent and jealous man, a fitting introduction to Rory Kinnear’s Iago from Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.  Campion’s ‘Fire, fire, fire’ takes us into the sin of lust. Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful poem ‘Warming Her Pearls’ is a monologue from a servant who wears the pearls to warm them before they are put around her mistress’ neck. The reader can see her strong feelings as a profound love, lust and possibly envy. You’ll hear the poem followed by Debussy’s ‘Chansons de Bilitis’, musical settings of deeply erotic poems by Pierre Louys.  

The sin of Gluttony starts with Adjoa Andoh’s reading of Ben Jonson’s ‘On Gut’, his pessimistic view of the nature of man heard with the American composer Robert Beaser’s ‘Gluttony’ from his ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ with words by Anthony Hecht.  

Wrath begins with Stevie Smith’s ‘Alone in the Woods’, an unusual poem from Smith in which the trees rail at their fury with man at the destruction of nature.  Satan’s fury in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ - as well, perhaps, as his greed and pride - is heard with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, premiered in 1953 after the death of Stalin whose brutality is heard in the breath-taking second movement, a furious indictment of Stalin’s existence in the world. 

Hamish MacCunn’s ‘Dirk Dance’ is followed by Robert Crawford’s ‘Alba Einstein’, envy but in an understandable way in the story of the Scots discovering that Einstein was, yes, one of them.  

We end with a gentle view of sloth from Mark Twain’s ‘Huckleberry Finn’, Twain conveying the romantic beauty of the Mississippi and the idyll of a lazy life on the river, heard with Ferde Grofé’s ‘Sunrise’ from his ‘Grand Canyons Suite’, inspired by Grofé’s memories of the sun rising as he slept outdoors.


Producer: Fiona McLean.



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