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Better than background music?

If incidental music is just another theatrical prop, why have so many great composers, from Mozart to Birtwistle, written scores for the theatre?

From ancient Greek drama until today, music has often been an integral part of the theatre and it's where many concert hall staples - think Beethoven's Egmont... Schubert's Rosamunde... Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.... Grieg's Peer Gynt - began life. But does the very act of collaboration make incidental music a sort of anaemic, second rate cousin to symphonies, string quartets and sonatas? To help find answers, Tom Service enlists the help of theatre director Elle While and Harrison Birtwistle, whose music was so vital to the 1983 landmark Peter Hall National Theatre production of Aeschylus's The Oresteia.

David Papp (producer)

4 days left to listen

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Jean Sibelius

    Jokamies [Everyman] - incidental music Op.83

    Performer: Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Leif Segerstam.
    • Naxos.
    • 8573340.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Thamos, Konig in Aegypten - music for the play K.345

    Performer: English Baroque Soloists. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • archiv.
    • 4375562.
  • Jocelyn Pook

    King Charles III

    Performer: Jocelyn Pook.
    • Pook Music.
    • PM002.
  • Edvard Grieg

    Peer Gynt - incidental music Op.23

    Performer: Gothenburg S O.. Conductor: Neeme Järvi.
    • DG.
    • 4775433.
  • Sir Harrison Birtwistle

    Music for Aeschylus's Oresteia (Agamemnon)

    Orchestra: Royal National Theatre.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    A Midsummer night's dream - incidental music Op.61

    Performer: Champs-Elysees Theatre Orchestra. Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI.
    • HMG 501502.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    A Midsummer night's dream - incidental music Op.61

    Performer: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Riccardo Chailly.
    • DECCA.
    • 4810778.
  • Adrian Sutton

    Music for the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Astroboy)

    Performer: Adrian Sutton.
    • Cordafonia Records.
    • Cordafonia Records.
  • Henry Purcell

    The Tempest, or The enchanted isle Z.631

    Performer: Les Inventions. Performer: VOCES8. Performer: Patrick Ayrton.
    • SIGNUM.
    • SIGCD375.
  • Frank Moon

    Music for the Merry Wives of Windsor (from The Globe Theatre)

    Performer: Andrew Kershaw. Performer: Dave Shulman. Performer: Fred Thomas. Performer: Lucy Landymore. Performer: Tom Dennis.
  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold

    The Sea Hawk - film score

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: André Previn.
    • DG.
    • 4713472.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le Nozze di Figaro - opera in 4 acts K.492

    Performer: Angelika Kirchschlager. Performer: Lorenzo Regazzo. Performer: Marie McLaughlin. Performer: Patrizia Ciofi. Performer: Simon Keenlyside. Performer: Véronique Gens. Performer: Concerto Köln. Conductor: René Jacobs.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI.
    • HMC-901818.20.
  • Gregorio Allegri

    Miserere mei Deus [Psalm 51] for 9 voices

    Performer: Peter Philips. Performer: Tallis Scholars.
    • CDG.
    • CDGIM041.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 8 in F major Op.93

    Performer: Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Performer: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    • Teldec.
    • 0927497682.
  • Professor Armand D'angour

    Reconstructed ancient Greek scores

  • Claudio Monteverdi

    L' Orfeo - favola in musica in a prologue and 5 acts

    Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Performer: Les Sacqueboutiers. Performer: Le Concert d’Astrée.
    • Virgin.
    • 545642-2.
  • Claudio Monteverdi

    L' Orfeo - favola in musica in a prologue and 5 acts

    Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Performer: Ian Bostridge. Performer: Les Sacqueboutiers. Performer: Le Concert d’Astrée.
    • Virgin.
    • 545642-2.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Jokamies [Everyman] - incidental music Op.83

    Performer: Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Leif Segerstam.
    • Naxos.
    • 8573340.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Jokamies [Everyman] - incidental music Op.83

    Performer: Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Leif Segerstam.
    • Naxos.
    • 8573340.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    A Midsummer night's dream - incidental music Op.61

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • LSO Live.
    • LSO0795.

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