View RSS Feed

Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Poems and Music

Rate this Entry
What a tough crowd! Two posts, over 150 views, no comment or "Like". What's up with that?

En français:

Related Thread: Poems and music

A few weeks back, I put out a call for suggestions on the subject of music and poetry. I got a few good suggestions, but I had some ideas coming in, and those haven’t been changed much after the thread ran dry…

The result is a YouTube playlist (details below)

The first set of selections consists of musical works that bear the title “poem”. Ernest Chausson’s Poème for violin and orchestra and Charles Griffes’ Poem for flute and orchestra are two great examples of this.

One man probably overused the term to identify his works, and that would be Alexander Scriabin. Here are a few choice poems for you:
  • A number of “Poèmes” for piano (op. 32, op. 41, op. 44, op. 69)
  • Poeme Tragique, op. 34, Poeme Satanique, op. 36, Poème fantastique in C major, op. 45 no. 2
  • Poème Ailé, op. 51, no., 3, Poem in C major, op. 52, no. 1, Poème languide in B major, op. 52, no. 3
  • The Poem of Ecstasy (Symphony No. 4), op. 54
  • Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, op. 60
  • Poème-Nocturne, op. 61

I chose one of these for my playlist (op. 32, no.1). I also provide here a link to the Piano Society website with a few pretty good performances of the op. 32 and op. 69 sets.

Polednice makes a couple of good suggestions on the thread: Dante’s Divine Comedy and Goethe's Faust. When it comes to the Dante work, though I acknowkedge the oft-performed Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky, my favorite has to be Liszt’s “Dante Sonata”, last piece in the second year of his Années de pèlerinage.

Three poems set to music:
  • The aforementioned Goethe (by Beethoven) in a lieder setting
  • “La romance du vin”, by French-Canadian poet Emile Nelligan, set to music by Quebec composer André Gagnon in his opera Nelligan. This and Nelligan’s most famous poem “Le vaisseau d'or” are the only two works by Nelligan actually set to music in the entire opera, and the Romance acts as the high point at the end of the first act.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, set to music by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson for the 1976 concept album “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. It is well-known as being one of the first rock songs to use a vocoder, developed by EMI, to distort vocals – though the use of electronics and vocals was dine quite effectively by Walter (Wendy) Carlos and Rachel Elkind for the “Ode to Joy” chorus in Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” a few years earlier.

The thread also suggested more pieces: Maxfeeder made a truckload of suggestions, there's Lord Byron as the inspiration to “Manfred” by Tchaikovsky – I would also add “Harold in Italy” to that – and Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Thanks Aramis). I wanted to keep this playlist fairly short…


Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899): Poème for violin and orchestra, Op. 25
Olivier Charlier violin, Orchestre National de Lorraine, Jacques Mercier conducting from a 2004 broadcast performance.

André GAGNON (*1939): “La romance du vin” from Act I of Nelligan, “opéra romantique” (1988-90)
Text by Émile Nelligan (1879-1941)
Sung by Fabiola, with uncredited piano accompaniment, June 2006 performance.

Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920): Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918)
Katherine Calvey, flute. Camerata de Coahuila (Torreon, Mexico), Enrique Perez Mesa conducting (undated performance)

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Aus Goethes Faust (Es war einmal ein König), op. 75, no. 3
Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Uncredited performers

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915): Poème in F-sharp major, Op.32 No.1
Vladimir Horowitz, piano (live performance at Carnegie Hall, May 9, 1965)

Alan PARSONS (*1948) and Eric WOOLFSON (1945-2009): The Raven (1976)
Text by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Performed by “The Alan Parsons Project”, featuring Leonard Whiting and Alan Parsons (lead vocal through an EMI vocoder)

Franz LISZT(1811-1886): “Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata” (After a Reading of Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata), S 161, no. 7 [also “Dante Sonata”]
Sergey Schepkin, piano

July 1st 2011, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage celebrating "Canada Day" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read more July 1st on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.
Likes Meaghan liked this post

Updated Jul-27-2011 at 12:23 by itywltmt (Added French link + addressed deleted original YouTube videos)

Classical Music , Literature , Recorded Music


  1. Huilunsoittaja's Avatar
    Interesting you came up with the Griffes Poem. I actually made no mention of it on your thread. But you are right, it has no real inspiration in a written poem, but it's a musical poem. The flute is the poet.
  2. itywltmt's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Huilunsoittaja
    Interesting you came up with the Griffes Poem. I actually made no mention of it on your thread. But you are right, it has no real inspiration in a written poem, but it's a musical poem. The flute is the poet.
    It's my job to keep you all "on your toes"!! I didn't think these "poems" were much of a curve ball, but if they were, then that's an unexpected bonus (for you and me)