Classical Pairings: Books and Music

June 24, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Every weekday morning at 10 a.m., the hosts at Classical MPR play a stand-out work based on the theme for the week. We call them Morning Glories.

This week, we're featuring five pieces of music inspired by storytelling and literature.

The long, leisurely days of summer almost insist that you immerse yourself in a great book, so how about some great music inspired by those books?

Here are a few classics that have sparked the imaginations of composers. If you're looking for more great summer reading suggestions, check out the Daily Circuit's recent discussion, "23 authors whose books could change your life."


Maurice Ravel: Mother Goose

Montreal Symphony Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, conductor

The kids are complaining of boredom? Grab a book of fairy tales and turn up the radio! Many composers have captured the ethereal charm of fairy tales in music, but perhaps none so effectively as Maurice Ravel.


John Williams: Selections from the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Studio Orchestra; John Williams, conductor

Williams' music for the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling's novels is probably some of the most familiar classical music associated with literature.


Felix Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream

London Symphony Orchestra; Peter Maag, conductor

Summer and Shakespeare go hand-in-hand, and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a great place to start (or refresh) your Shakespeare repertoire. Then try Romeo and Juliet (before you see the Cromulent Shakespeare Company's quirky production), The Winter's Tale (then see it in Detroit Lakes), Twelfth Night or Henry V (featured this year at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona), Othello or Hamlet (both at the Guthrie next Spring). Or, if you don't have that much time, just see The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged).


Johan de Meij: Lord of the Rings Symphony

Peabody Conservatory Wind Ensemble; Harland D. Parker, conductor

Each of the five movements in de Meij's symphony for winds paints a musical portrait of characters and scenes from the epic Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. Listen for themes representing jaunty hobbits, mysterious Gollum, and wise Gandalf.


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Lydia Miller, violin; Mankato Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Freed, conductor

Scheherazade is the storyteller in the collection of the Arabic stories known as One Thousand and One Nights. Here, Rimsky-Korsakov casts a passionate solo violin as Scheherazade weaving her tale of the sailor Sinbad.

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