Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As You Like It CD out

The soundtrack CD from Kenneth Branagh's new As You Like It film for HBO is available now. The original music was composed for the film by Patrick Doyle who also scored Branagh's Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado and L3 as well as many other films.

The music includes Shakespeare's songs from the play such as "Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind" and "It Was a Lover and his Lass" that appear in the play without music, encouraging the songs to be set according to current fashion.

In 2005 the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario produced an As You Like It with original music by Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies. Our Oberon group saw that production during a visit to Stratford that year. You can order the BNL As You Like It CD from BNL Audio.

Setting Shakespeare's songs was also popular in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Roger Quilter and Gerald Finzi are famous for their atmospheric, English art-song, settings. My favorite CD is a compendium of their Shakespeare songs (and Ralph Vaughn Williams' settings of Robert Louis Stevenson poems) sung by Kiwi baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Rhodes sings Quilter's version of "Blow, Blow" and Finzi's "It Was a Lover and His Lass" from As You Like It. The 2005 CD is titled "Vagabond" and is available from Middle Eight Music in South Yarra, Victoria, Australia.

By listening to all three CDs, you can see how three distinct musical stylists responded to two songs from Shakespeare's As You Like It.

If all this talk of Shakespeare's songs has piqued your interest in Shakespeare's use of music in his work, you will find the very fine Shakespeare and Music by University of Leeds professor of Renaissance literature David Lindley wonderfully enlightening. The book was published in 2006 by Thomson Learning as one in the Arden Shakespeare's Arden Critical Companions series.

Parenthetically, Lindley has made available an annotated edition of Beerbohm Tree's 1904 production of The Tempest on the web.

Heigh-ho! Sing, heigh-ho!

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