Midsummer Night's Dream - Suite for orchestra

Howard Blake (1938)

Midsummer Night's Dream - Suite for orchestra 2014

1111-1110 - perc - harp.cel.pno - str
Duration 
14
Solist 
Text Author 
Language 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

Adrian Noble invited me to compose my first serious theatre score with his remarkable production of 'Henry V' in 1984. The production with new discovery Kenneth Branagh was a great success and the following year Adrian invited me back to do 'As you like it', which included my composing music for all the songs. Later I was to adapt and develop these into a substantial concert song-cycle called 'Shakespeare Songs'. After that however I became too busy with other things and sadly had to decline offers, including 'Hamlet'. In 1989 I wrote cues for Adrian's production of Ibsen's 'Master-builder' but nothing else substantial. I was therefore very flattered when he invited me back in 1995 to write a real film score for his very innovative theatre production of Midsummer Night's Dream that Film Four had asked him to direct for television and cinema. I conducted my score for the recording in Whitfield Street Studios with members of the Philharmonia Orchestra, May 31-June 2nd 1996.

Since Adrian's production included a motor-bike for the Mechanicals and a forest consisting of light bulbs, the score did not have to be set in a conventional 'mock-Tudor' style and the character of Bottom for instance is conveyed by a jazzy solo trombone. Unusually for an orchestral suite there are important parts for three sopranos. One solo soprano sings a wordless 'vocalise' inspired by Oberon's speech 'I heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back' and the three join forces for settings of 'Philomel with melody' and 'Ye spotted snakes', which has quite a rocky modern feel to it. A solo violin begins the work announcing the main theme, redolent of fairies flying through midnight skies and enchanted happenings. A Nocturne is played by solo bassoon, a solo horn over ominous repeated chords conjures up 'Ill-met by moonlight' and celeste weaves a tapestry with strings for 'I know a bank whereon the wild-thyme grows.' The finale takes us back to the Athenian court with some pomp and circumstance, but magic still lingers on into the pianissimo conclusion.

This suite was specially created in March 2014 at the request of David Curtis and the Orchestra of the Swan and it celebrates the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

Howard Blake

Performances 
16.6.14 Stratford-upon-Avon: Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis
1
Flute
1
Oboe
1
Clarinet
1
Bassoon
1
Horn
1
Trumpet
1
Trombone
1
Percussion
1
Harp
2
Piano
piano, celesta
(Esc)