Rabindranath Tagore

The Gardener is a collection of poems, which RabIndranath Tagore (1861-1941) translated from the original Bengali and then published it in 1915.  The 85 poems is a series of vignettes, switching between a man and a woman. The opening poem sets the scene with delicate, colourful, fragrant and musical imagery, which are motives throughout the whole collection. The translation and paraphrases …

Hilaire Belloc

Richard Hageman’s song Miranda is a setting of Hilaire Belloc’s poem Tarantella. Hageman however gives a false impression of the original text since he omits the final stanza of Belloc’s poem.  It is specifically in this envoi where Belloc’s text turns morbid and indeed the title is put in context. The tarantella is a dance of courtship (danced by a couple) or …

Percy B Shelley

One of the earliest texts written in Dutch around 1100 reads, “Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic anda thu, wat unbidan we nu?” This translates to All the birds have started making their nests, except you and me. What are we waiting for? On the other side of the timeline Cole Porter invitingly crooned in the 20th Century that the …

Mary E Coleridge

I continue my survey of the poets and song texts for Marie Vassiliou and my recital in Bedford in April. Love went a-riding by the late-Victorian poet Mary E. Coleridge (1861-1907) is next on my list. Coleridge published only some of her poetry during her lifetime, but under the pseudonym Anodos, which alludes to George Macdonald’s hero from Phantases.  It …

Matthew Arnold

In preparation of upcoming recitals with soprano Marie Vassiliou I am looking into the background and context of the song texts of our programme. My first poem of choice is Longing by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). This poem is the last from a sequence of five poems, which are collected under the title Faded Leaves (published in Empedocles on Etna in 1852). Arnold’s Longing serves as the …

Essential Trivia

It was interesting to read on writer Alex Ross’ blog about his extended search for the Hotel Elephant in Graz, Austria during the time that he was writing his book The Rest is Noise.  As Ross notes this hotel was where Strauss, Mahler, Puccini and Schoenberg got together after the Austrian premier of Salome at the Grazer Oper on 16 May 1906. Such “tangential …

Prelude to Beethoven

I am working on the Beethoven Choral Fantasy in c minor, Op. 80 today.  I decided to first find inspiration by going for a walk on what is a gloriously bright morning.  I am fortunate that there is so much greenery in Greenwich that nature is never further than a 10 minute walk away.  Beethoven’s fantasy speaks of the fulfilment …