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Catalogue of Trees

As spring approaches, Emma Fielding and Julian Rhind-Tutt read a selection of texts inspired by trees. Authors include Edmund Spenser, John Clare, Amy Levy and Roger Deakin, with music from Grieg to Sibelius, Art Tatum to Radiohead.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 1 Apr 2018 17:30

Music Played

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

  • David George Haskell

    Balsam Fir, from The Songs of Trees, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • 00:00

    John Luther Adams

    Four Thousand Holes

    Performer: Stephen Drury, piano; Scott Deal, percussion; John Luther Adams, electronics.
    • Cold Blue Music CB0035.
    • 1.
  • John Clare

    The Sycamore, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Edvard Grieg

    Arietta (Lyric Pieces Op.12 no.1)

    Performer: Stephen Hough, piano.
    • Hyperion CDA 68070.
    • 1.
  • W.S.Merwin

    The Fig Tree, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • Alfred Tennyson

    In Memoriam A.H.H., read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Igor Stravinsky

    Double Canon (Raoul Dufy in Memoriam)

    Performer: Chilingirian Quartet.
    • Catalyst 82876642832.
    • 5.
  • William Wordsworth

    Yew-Trees, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • 00:00

    Brian McNeill

    The Yew Tree

    Performer: Dick Gaughan.
    • Greentrax.
    • 1.
  • Heinrich Heine, translated Edgar Alfred Bowring

    A Lonely Fir Tree, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Town and Country

    Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation

    • Thrill Jockey.
    • 1.
  • Thomas Hardy

    To a Tree in London (Clement’s Inn), read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • Amy Levy

    A London Plane, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Sergey Rachmaninov

    Prelude Op.32 No.12 in G sharp minor

    Performer: Steven Osborne, piano.
    • Hyperion CDA 67700.
    • 23.
  • David George Haskell

    Callery Pear, from The Songs of Trees, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • Katherine Gallagher

    The Year of the Tree, ready by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Glenn Kotche

    Clapping Music Variations

    Performer: Glenn Kotche.
    • Nonesuch 7559 79929-2.
    • 1.
  • 00:00

    Bradley Kincaid

    Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow

    Performer: The Carter Family.
    • Disky Communications USA 370959295.
    • 22.
  • Alfred Tennyson

    The Oak, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • John Clare

    The Shepherd’s Tree, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Franz Schubert

    Der Lindenbaum, from Winterreise

    Performer: Matthias Goerne (baritone); Graham Johnson (piano).
    • Hyperion CDJ33030.
    • 5.
  • Edward Thomas

    The Cherry Trees, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • Siegfried Sasson

    The Hawthorn Tree, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    John Williams

    On Willows and Birches: On Willows

    Performer: Boston Symphony Orchestra; Ann Hobson Pilot (harp); Shi-Yeon Sung (conductor).
    • BSO Classics.
    • 1.
  • Seamus Heaney

    The Poplar, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • 00:00

    Lewis Allan

    Strange Fruit

    Performer: Billie Holiday.
    • Verve.
    • 5.
  • Amy Levy

    The Birch Tree at Loschwitz

  • 00:00

    Jean Sibelius

    Symphony No.5, third movement

    Performer: CBSO, Sakari Oramo (conductor).
    • Erato 8573858222.
    • 3.
  • Robert Frost

    A Young Birch, read by Emma Fielding

  • William Stanley Merwin

    Elegy for a Walnut Tree, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

  • 00:00



    Performer: Radiohead.
    • Parlophone CDKIDA1.
    • 5.
  • Dorothy Parker

    The Apple Tree, read by Emma Fielding

  • 00:00

    Ann Ronnell

    Willow Weep for Me

    Performer: Art Tatum.
    • Capitol CDP7928662.
    • 1.
  • 00:01

    John Luther Adams

    …and bells remembered…

    Performer: Callithumpian Consort.
    • Cold Blue Music CB0035.
    • 2.
  • John Clare

    The Maple Tree

  • John Updike

    Maples in a Spruce Forest

  • Thomas Lynch

    Loneliest of Trees, The Winter Oak

  • 00:01

    Tom Waits

    The Last Leaf on the Tree

    Performer: 11.
    • Anti USEP41122011.
    • 11.
  • 00:01


    Quartet in F major, second movement

    Performer: Belcea Quartet.
    • EMI 574020-2.
    • 18.
  • Edmund Spenser

    The Fairie Queene

  • 00:01

    Frank Bridge

    There is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook

    Performer: BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
    • Chandos.
    • 4.
  • Ted Hughes

    A Tree

  • Roger Deakin


  • 00:01

    Gillian Welch

    Winter's Come and Gone

    Performer: Gillian Welch.
    • WEA 504666873 2.
    • 11.

Words and Music: Catalogue of Trees

Producer’s Note

With Easter comes spring, and a good time to reflect on the ancient living structures that provide food and shelter, hope and solace, grimly persisting in the harshest conditions. Trees have been a constant source of inspiration for English language poets, as illustrated here in writing from Edmund Spenser to Seamus Heaney. Most of the texts focus on individual trees, covering a range of species including fir, yew, elm, plane, cherry, oak, birch and maple. There are just three passages of prose: two are from David George Haskell’s The Songs of Trees, a study in bioacoustics which includes one attempt by the author to wire a callery pear in the busy streets of Manhattan; the other is from the closing pages of Roger Deakin’s Wildwood in which the writer describes in detail the spring regeneration of the ash tree by his home in Suffolk.

Trees provide the imagery for some of the songs: Schubert’s lime tree, a setting of Wilhelm Müller’s Der Lindenbaum from the Winterreise cycle, the East Lothian yew tree of Dick Gaughan’s historical ballad, and Billie Holiday’s powerful recording of Strange Fruit in which the victims of lynchings hang from the poplars of the American south. Other music reflects the mood of the texts: the slow, interweaving lines of Stravinsky’s Double Canon follows an excerpt from Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.; the title and otherworldly texture of Radiohead’s Treefingers resonates with the “curled sleeping fingers” of W.S.Merwin’s Elegy for a Walnut Tree; the “passionate wind of spring” in Amy Levy’s The Birch Tree at Loschwitz is echoed in the third movement of Sibelius’s Symphony No.5, said to have been inspired by a spring-time sighting of swans in flight through the Finnish countryside; finally the plucked and bowed sounds of Ravel’s String Quartet in F become the woody bed for Spenser’s expansive catalogue of trees from the Fairie Queene.

Producer, Felix Carey


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