Shakespeare's Anniversary in 2014

Shakespeare's Anniversary in 2014
2014 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. Celebrate The Bard's magnificent contribution to the arts by including some Shakespeare-inspired music in your forthcoming seasons...
There is a wealth of Shakespeare-inspired music across the Music Sales catalogue for all genres. This anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to explore a variety of composers, ranging from Malcolm Arnold to Michael Nyman; Samuel Barber to Arne Nordheim. I hope you will take time to look through the below and please contact me if you'd like any further information.
All are available from the Music Sales catalogue, and many samples of the pieces listed here are available to listen to on this Shakespeare playlist.

An example of just a few works:

A piece dripping with Renaissance drama, Malcolm Arnold's 25-minute Cello Concerto 'Shakespearian' brilliantly overcomes the challenge of portraying the work of Shakespeare without using his original written medium as a libretto. Using a Renaissance-inspired figure in the cello, Arnold manipulates the ripieno to create textures and moods corresponding to popular Shakespearian themes - love, despair, tragedy and murder to name a few.

Sir Edward German became music director at The Globe theatre in 1888, and wrote many pieces of incidental music for its productions. Romantic and swelling, his music perfectly emulated the drama of many of Shakespeare's most famous works, while standing well on its own as concert music.

Saariaho's Tempest Songbook is an exploration of the main characters from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. Music and its hypnotic properties is a major theme of the play, and it is clear through the orchestral accompaniment that Saariaho draws heavily on this idea. The glistening, modal piano and harp emulate the magical deception of the island, while the portamento strings visualise confusion and societal decay. This is a very atmospheric collection of five songs.

Suite from 'The Tempest' is taken from Arne Nordheim's music for the ballet. Mingling ambient noise (such as crashing waves) with subtly pulsating, gradually mutating vocal harmonies, Nordheim gradually edges this mysterious musical reverie into a crashing orchestral panic. The disconnected-sounding instrumental parts portray the crossed wires and dishonesty among the characters, and at intervals the voices interject with confused, anguish-ridden cries (particularly during Caliban's Warning, the final movement of the suite, injecting a characteristic sub-human tone). This piece is filled with musical expression, and is extremely effective without an accompanying stage performance.

Michael Nyman originally wrote Ariel Songs for Peter Greenway's 1990 film Prospero's Books. The text is taken from songs in The Tempest and the music emulates, simply yet passionately, the ethereal other-worldliness of the play and the character Ariel herself. The three songs are all for solo female voice with different versions of orchestration available (including a piano or string quartet accompaniment, and a version for soprano saxophone).

These pieces and further outstanding works are perfect for honouring The Bard on this significant occasion and can be found below.

To order a piece from our hire library, please follow the instructions on our Hire Page.


Malcolm Arnold
Cello Concerto 'Shakespearian' Op 136 (1988) 25'
Solo: Cello, 2(pic)222/4331/timp.1perc/str

Graville Bantock
Macbeth (1926) 12'

Samuel Barber
Antony and Cleopatra, Two Scenes Op 40 (rev. 1975) 16'
Text: Shakespeare
Solo: Soprano, 2+pic+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4331/timp.perc/

Lennox Berkeley
Suite: The Winter's Tale Op 54 (1960) 16'

George Dyson

Agincourt (Henry V) (1955) 23'
for SATB chorus, soloists & orchestra

Sir Edward German
As You Like It Masque (1896) 8'

Hamlet Symphonic Poem (1898) 24'

Henry VIII: Three Dances (1892) 8'

Much Ado About Nothing: Bourée & Gigue (1898) 6'

Richard III Overture
(1891) 9'

Romeo & Juliet Suite (1895) 17'

Edward Elgar
Falstaff (symphonic study) (1913) 30'

Michael Gordon
Romeo (1992) 8'

Joseph Horovitz
Lady Macbeth (1970) 9'

Robert Kurka
Julius Caesar, a Symphony Epilogue after Shakespeare Op 28 (1955) 9'

Arne Nordheim
Be Not Afeard (1989) 8'
Solo: Soprano, Baritone

Suite from 'The Tempest' (1979) 40'
Solo: Soprano & Baritone

Michael Nyman
Ariel Songs (1992) 14'
Soprano/pianoforte/string quartet/soprano saxophone

Kaija Saariaho
The Tempest Songbook (2004) 21'
Soprano, baritone,

Aulis Sallinen

A Solemn Overture (King Lear) (1997) 12'

Gunther Schuller
Five Shakespearian Songs (1964) 15'
Solo: Baritone, 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4331/timp.perc/

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910/19) 16'
Solo: String Quartet, Double String Orchestra

Peter Warlock
Capriol Suite for Orchestra (1928) 9'
2222/2231/side dm/strings

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