What’s the connection between classical music and classic poetry? That was theme some of us decided to explore with #ClassicsaDay. For April 2018 we posted examples of settings of poetry in classical music, works inspired by poetry, and more. Here’s an annotated list of the works I posted for the last week of #PoetryMonth.
Gerald Finzi – 7 Partsongs, Op. 17 (Poetry by Robert Bridges)
Robert Bridges was a major literary figure in early 20th Century Britain. He was Poet Laureate from 1913-1930 and wrote verse drams, hymns, and prose as well as poetry. Gerald Finzi set seven Bridges poems for unaccompanied singers. He completed the work in 1937.
Samuel Barber – Music for a Scene from Shelley, Op. 7 (Prometheus Unbound – Percy Bysshe Shelly)
“Prometheus Unbound” was first published in 1820. Shelley’s four-act lyrical drama was completed in Italy. Over a century later, while in Italy, Samuel Barber composed his tone poem. The immediate inspiration was the same scenery that purportedly inspired Shelley, and the lines from the poem to hear “voices in the air.”
Elliott Carter – Scrivo in Vento
(Sonnet 212 “Beato in sogno” – Francesco Petrarch)
The 14th Century Italian poet Petrarch is considered one of the first humanist poets. His works greatly influenced poets for over 200 years. In 1993 Elliott Carter wrote “Scrivo in vento.” The structure and the rhythmic shape of the work are based on that of Petrarch’s Sonnet 212.
Guillaume de Machaut – Plourés dames
(Le voir dit – Guillaume de Machaut)
Guillaume de Machaut was not only considered one of the most important composers of his time, he was also regarded as one of its greatest poets. “Plourés dames” is one of many parts of his 1325 poem “Le voir dit” Machaut set to music. Although the poem is represented as “a true story,” Machaut gives the reader plenty of clues to the contrary.
Charles Tomlinson Griffes – The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, Op. 8
(Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream: A Fragment – Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
Although completed in 1797, Coleridge’s poem wasn’t published until 1816. The work was inspired by the poet’s visions while taking opium. “Kubla Khan” celebrates a highly romanticized version of Orientalism that was in vogue at the time. Charles Thomlinson Griffes wrote his tone poem in 1912. The music came to Griffes in a dream, and its impressionist score became one of his most popular compositions.