Settings of Shakespeare

It is thanks to Shakespeare that we have one of the most famous ever quotes about music. As Twelfth Night opens, Duke Orsino speaks the words that are familiar to millions of us: “If music be the food of love, play on“.

Shakespeare’s plays are awash with music. His characters make reference to music, singers and dancers regularly accompany the action on stage, and the Bard’s words themselves flow melodiously.

Unsurprisingly, then, composers for centuries have in turn been inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. Tragedies, comedies and histories have alike found themselves entering the repertoire represented in all manner of ways, from Purcell (writing in the same century that Shakespeare died) to Thomas Adès in the present day.

Ex Urbe are pleased to present as our next concert “settings of Shakespeare” which will include settings by a number of composers including Vaughan Williams, Mäntyjärvi, Macfarren, Wood and Rutter.

In addition, and to celebrate the 150th Birthday of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) the concert will include “Three Shakespeare Songs” plus “Three Elizabethan Part Songs”. The first set were composed in 1951 and comprise three short pieces, settings of text from two of Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream whilst the Part Songs include settings of two further Shakespeare songs from Othello and Twelfth Night. Text by George Herbert is used for the other setting of the trilogy.