There’s so much music in Shakespeare

Royal Shakespeare Company: Shakespeare’s Songs

Music was certainly the food of love, and we were really delighted that the evening continued to play on, when a varied programme of Shakespeare songs from the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company Music Archive were performed on Monday at St George’s Guildhall.

This King’s Lynn Festival concert, entitled Royal Shakespeare Company: Shakespeare’s Songs, featured a talented line–up of artists including Bruce O’Neil, Head of Music for The RSC no less at the piano, Raphaela Papadakis (soprano), Benedict Nelson (baritone), and the presenter for the evening was Christopher Luscombe.

The settings included some by 14 composers from more than 10 of Shakespeare’s plays and we were amazed by the richness of the pieces being chosen from an archive now containing approximately 450 scores by around 110 composers.

The period covered ranged from 1879 up to the present day.

One is curious to know how the style and type of music is decided upon, but Bruce O’Neil tells me that is usually the decision of the play’s director.

The music may be contemporary or, perhaps, a pastiche of some past musical styles, as were settings by Raymond Leppard and Howard Blake, included during the evening. Other composers featured were Franz Schubert, Roger Quilter, Gerald Finzi and Guy Woolfenden (previously of The RSC).

All contributions by the artists involved were filled with wit, confidence and clarity, and much finesse, when required, especially in some of the more tender settings. This entertaining evening was sponsored by Kate and Adrian Parker.

As several people commented during this fascinating evening, we did not know there was so much music in Shakespeare; well now we know!

Review by Andy Tyler