Ensemble Presents Music Inspired by Shakespeare

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Ensemble Presents Music Inspired by Shakespeare

The works of William Shakespeare have inspired a considerable number of musical compositions since they first appeared in the sixteenth century. His plays have been made into operas by musicians such as Gioachino Rossini, Charles Gounod, Vincenzo Bellini and Giuseppe Verdi. There have also been symphonic poems by Franz Liszt, songs by Franz Schubert, ballet music by Sergey Prokofiev, and sonatas by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Even though it is not as well known as the ones mentioned above, Manfred Gurlitt's "Shakespeare Symphony" was also inspired by a number of Shakespearean plays.The German composer wrote a symphony for five singers and an orchestra, using "Antony and Cleopatra," "King Henry IV," "Julius Caesar," "King Richard II," and "King Richard III" for each movement.

The bard himself showed a lot of interest in music with many of his plays, particularly the comedies, featuring songs or accompanying music for scenes set during dances or other festive activities. Modern directors presenting a Shakespearean play have to conduct much research and adapt pieces which they find are the most appropriate to complement their presentation.

Many well known composers have also written accompanying music for Shakespeare's plays. These include Henry Bishop, Dimitry Kabalevsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Ernest Chausson. Felix Mendelssohn's pieces for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," are the best known and features the much-celebrated "The Wedding March."

The Korea Festival Ensemble will present "Shakespeare in Music," at the Jayu Theater in Seoul Arts Center on Thursday and Friday. The repertoire includes various musical works based on Shakespeare's plays, such as Schubert's song, "Sylvia," from "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," Edvard Grieg's "Watchman's Song" from "Macbeth," Hector Berlioz's Overture from "King Lear," Liszt's Symphonic poem, "Hamlet," Prokofiev's "The Montagues and The Capulets," Gounod's aria, "Ah, leve-toi, Solei," from "Romeo and Juliet," Beethoven's "Piano Sonata" from "The Tempest," Johannes Brahms' "Five Orphelia Lieder" from "Hamlet," Mendelssohn's "The Wedding March" and Claude Debussy's Piano piece, "La Danse de Puck" among others.

The concert will be hosted by Han Jin-hee, a Korean television personality, and Park Eun-hee, a pianist. It will feature commentary from Lee Hyun-woo, a professor at the English Literature Department at Soonchunhyang University, to help place the music in context.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and the admission is 20,000 won ($15). For more information, call the Korea Festival Ensemble at 02-501-8477.

by Lee Jang-jik

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