Sunday, June 3, 2007

Byron as You've Never Heard Him

Did you know that nearly 30 of Byron's poems were meant not as stand-alone poems, but as song lyrics? According to Paul Douglass of San Jose State University in California, Byron composed around 29 poems as lyrics for music to be composed by Isaac Nathan (1790-1864), reputedly England's first popular Jewish composer. Among the poems, compiled as A Selection of Hebrew Melodies, Ancient and Modern, are She Walks in Beauty Like the Night, The Destruction of Sennacharib, Jephtha's Daughter, The Wild Gazelle, and We Sate Down and Wept.

Some of the Byron-Nathan songs have been recorded, and samples are available on Mr. Douglass's Website, Romantic Era Songs, at

The same site, by the way, also features selections from Stephen Storace's music for The Haunted Tower (1789).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dibdin: Georgian-Regency Renaissance Man

Charles Dibdin (c.1745-1814)

Dibdin flourished in London during the Georgian years and early Regency as something of an artistic Renaissance man. Poet, actor, songwriter, singer, he wrote around 1,400 songs and 30 theater pieces, including operas, and allegedly created the form of the one-man show.

The Shepherd's Artifice
Songs for the plays Love in the City and Love in a Village, by Isaac Bickerstaffe

Music for the play The Padlock

The Waterman

The Quaker
The Comic Mirror

Liberty Hall

Late 1780s-Early 1800s
Popular songs, often of a patriotic nature:
Poor Jack
'Twas on the Good Ship "Rover"
Saturday Night at Sea
Tom Bowling

Monday, May 21, 2007

Music in Jane Austen's Works

After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air...
--Chapter 10, Pride & Prejudice (1813)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Storace: The King of Drury Lane

Stephen Storace (1762-1796)

In terms of commercial success, Storace, whose works were produced at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, was the Andrew Lloyd Webber of his day, meeting popular tastes largely with ballad operas that featured visual spectacle, bold vocal turns and trendy, exotic themes. Most of his works survive only as reductions for voice and piano. Many were never printed in full score, largely from the fear of piracy, there being no copyright laws to protect artists' rights. Dido Queen of Carthage, a serious opera, was the rare Storace work rejected by the public. According to some sources, lack of demand rendered it unworthy of printing.

Despite "Dido," Storace was hugely popular well into the 19th century. "Of plighted faith," an air from his opera The Siege of Belgrade, may be heard on the recording Jane Austen's Songbook.

Selections from The Haunted Tower, which was modified after the original French text by the Marquis de Sade, may be heard at Romantic Era Songs, a Website by Paul Douglass of San Jose State University in California. The URL is

The Haunted Tower

No Song, No Supper (One-act)

The Siege of Belgrade

The Music of the Pirates

The Cherokee


The Three and the Deuce
Dido, Queen of Carthage

The Iron Chest
Mahmoud, Prince of Persia

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Field: Irish Regency Romantic

John Field (1782-1837)

Dublin-born Field, a concert pianist and composer popularly called "the Irish Romantic," lived in Russia between 1801 and 1830. He reputedly developed the nocturne, a short musical form that usually showcases one particular mood. The first three of the nocturnes were published in 1812. The remaining appeared at various times throughout his career.

Field also wrote six piano concertos.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat
Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat

Piano Concerto No. 4 in E flat (revised in 1819)

Piano Concerto No. 5 in C

Piano Concerto No. 6 in C

Nightingale Sounds

It may not be music as such, but one of the most famous birdsongs was the subject of a poem written by John Keats in May 1819.

If you've ever read Ode to a Nightingale and wondered what the bird sounds like, click on Nightingale Sounds in the Links column. You'll be taken to a site that will offer a collection of nightingale vocalizations to choose from. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Regency Rossini, 1812-1820

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

Rossini, whose career is as fabled as his sense of humor, composed some of his greatest operas by 1820, before he was 30 years old. Here are the most significant hits. I believe all have been recorded.

La Scala di Seta (“The Silken Ladder”)

Il Signor Bruschino
L'Italiana in Algeri (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”)

Il Turco in Italia (‘The Turk in Italy”)

Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra (“Elizabeth, Queen of England”)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia (“The Barber of Seville”)

La Cenerentola (“Cinderella”)
La Gazza Ladra (“The Thieving Magpie”)

Mosè in Egitto (“Moses in Egypt”)

La Donna del Lago (“The Lady of the Lake”)