Saturday, April 3, 2010

Shakespeare and Music

Writers rarely create poems with the intention that they will be turned into song, but one notable exception is Shakespeare. His plays include passsages that are actually songs. Ross Duffin's Shakespeare's Songbook reunites the poetry and music of Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare also incorporated musical moments into some of the plays or alluded to music within the story. Scholars have investigated the music that was used, and musicians specializing in early music performance have recorded likely songs.

Search CardCat for Shakespeare--Musical Settings to find recordings inspired by Shakespeare.

One famous example of a song based on a Shakespeare text is An Sylvia by Franz Schubert. This song text was written as part of the play, Two Gentlemen of Verona, but the music has been lost.

Picture of Schubert

Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.

Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness,
And, being helped, inhabits there.

Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring.

--William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Was ist Silvia, saget an,
Daß sie die weite Flur preist?
Schön und zart seh ich sie nahn,
Auf Himmelsgunst und Spur weist,
Daß ihr alles untertan.

Ist sie schön und gut dazu?
Reiz labt wie milde Kindheit;
Ihrem Aug’ eilt Amor zu,
Dort heilt er seine Blindheit
Und verweilt in süßer Ruh.

Darum Silvia, tön, o Sang,
Der holden Silvia Ehren;
Jeden Reiz besiegt sie lang,
Den Erde kann gewähren:
Kränze ihr und Saitenklang!

--Eduard von Bauernfeld (1802-1890)

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