The Fire Worshippers (published 1892), a dramatic cantata for solo voices chorus and orchestra, is written ambitiously by the hand of then student-composer Granville Bantock. As a piece that is derived from Thomas Moore’s oriental romance Lalla Rookh (1817), Bantock modernises the musical response to the story and establishes a great force into the music.
Bantock is a prolific composer who constantly changes his musical language in an unrecognisable manner. However, the Wagnerian compositional style remains as the main influence in Bantock which can be identified in The Fire Worshippers. Compared with songs based on Lalla Rookh that came out within a few years of Moore’s 1817 poem (for example, “‘Twas his own voice” by Sir John Stevenson), Bantock’s work shares little or no similarities. The piece is more elaborate and is written in a concert style. It is not difficult to observe the gestures from all voices; Bantock clearly drew on the strength of each character in the vocal parts. Like most late romantic pieces, The Fire Worshippers is richly orchestrated and involves notably wide-ranging melodic lines.
It is interesting to see how the musical response to Lalla Rookh develops. Composers are working with the same story-line, but it encourages different interpretations as the nineteenth century progresses. What used to be a soothing type of storytelling now becomes dramatic. Having a huge orchestra boosts every dramatic moment more effectively. To name an example, in Scene Five, when Hinda (an Arab princess in war-torn Persia, depicted by a soprano) cries ‘No rest for me, while danger’s nigh,’ the music suddenly becomes very loud with a more urgent tempo marking ‘Molto Andante’ (from the preceding ‘Largo’). The percussion offers a forceful sound on top of the thick texture achieved by strings, woodwinds and brass.
The demand in this piece is very high — as a multi-movement cantata for chorus, vocal soloists and orchestra, it is quite lengthy and substantial as compared with the short songs written for piano and voice that Moore’s poem inspired in the 1810s and ’20s. The first review of the Overture to The Fire Worshippers as performed at the Royal Academy of Music, London, simply praised Bantock’s modern interpretation of the story for being “bold, and the orchestration picturesque” The Fire Worshippers by Bantock displays vivid images through his compositional technique and orchestration. He offers a good representation of Moore’s story, entering into its ambience and variety, perhaps in a more convincing manner than Moore’s immediate contemporaries managed to do.
Bantock, Granville, The Fire Worshippers, Novello’s original octavo edition, London: Novello & Company Limited, 1892 (Score accessed 10th April 2017).
“Royal Academy of Music.” The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 32.575 (1 January 1891): 23.
Editor’s note: in May 2017, as part of the lunch series in Music at Queen’s University Belfast, Daniel performed a recitative as Fadladeen from the 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh (W.G. Wills, text, and Frederic Clay, music).
Lalla Rookh, Fadladeen, and Feramors as depicted by Richard Westall and Charles Heath (Longmans, 1817). Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.
Performing a character is always a very subjective affair. The same character may be interpreted and portrayed variously by different people based upon how they perceive the character’s intentions, actions and overall importance to the plot. The presence of effective characterisation, like many things, often goes unnoticed until it isn’t there at all. With the ability to completely alter the way in which an audience perceives and experiences a story-line, effective characterisation is one of the most important aspects of performance in theatre, musical theatre and opera.
The character of Fadladeen is a very complex one. Portraying the ‘Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram’ may at first appear simple as you need only be pompous and commanding in character, but if a fully rounded and three-dimensional character is desired then this simply cannot be the case.
“You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.”
Nancy Kress tells us that in order to become the character, the performer must also become the writer and audience. I believe this means that in the portrayal of a character the performer must consider the writer’s intentions for the character, the character’s own possible intentions based upon the interpreted personality and the audience’s expectations of the character. Doing so allows the performer to tailor their portrayal to be complementary to the writer’s concept, believable to the character (as written) and pleasing to the audience.
A good place to begin dissecting the character of Fadladeen would be to consider Moore’s description of him.
‘Fadladeen was the judge of every thing, – from the penciling of a Circassian’s eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem … His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi, -“Should the Prince at noon- day say, it is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars.”’
This description provided by Moore doesn’t do much to alter the preconceived idea of how Fadladeen should appear or act but rather reinforces the idea of a commanding figure, a man of high stature that commands the stage when he takes to it. Moore does, however, suggest him to be a fiercely loyal character, an aspect which helps to add more depth and possibly context to him and his thought processes.
If we take Fadladeen’s first solo recitative from the Frederic Clay (music) and W. G. Wills (text) adaption of Lalla Rookh as an example, we can see that Moore’s idea of character comes through in the rhythmic structuring of the music: a lot of emphasis on the strong beats of the music creates a very commanding feel. This style and ‘feel’ commands the audience’s attention. A frequent use of dotted rhythms in the vocal line helps the performer to understand which syllables should be emphasised as this kind of rhythm naturally creates a more accentuated down beat as seen in fig 1.
Frederic Clay’s recitative for Fadladeen, with dotted rhythms creating a strong musical character
The second task to portraying Fadladeen is to consider how he as a character may think and how this effects and helps shape the decisions he makes throughout. We know from Moore’s description that he is a very commanding and loyal figure, but if we study how he speaks and interacts with Lalla Rookh, it isn’t hard to notice that he is also very protective of her–whether this be through fierce loyalty to her father or through compassion towards her, this new dynamic to his character can be vital in the effective realisation of it. Considering his recitative in the Clay adaption once again, when Fadladeen says “Be it my care to wile away thy pain” (to Lalla Rookh), this suggests that he is not simply the commanding figure originally outlined by Moore.
The final task is to consider the expectation of the audience with a figure such as Fadladeen. While Fadladeen has been recognised as a rare English portrayal of a figure who faithfully reflects Persian society (Trench, 1934), it has also been pointed out that he adds a touch of humour to the story (Rao, unknown). It can be found that characters such as Fadladeen usually require even a small bit of humour to keep them from becoming too monotonous. This humour I believe is best found in the small musical ironies within his part in the Clay adaption. As seen in fig 2. Fadladeen sings the word ‘elevate’ as the vocal line drops an octave, an irony that would not go unnoticed by a character, with a capacity to pay such immense attention to detail, such as Fadladeen.
Clay’s use of musical irony in Fadladeen’s recitative
With all these factors considered it is then up to the performer to absorb the information and work out what these different traits mean to them and how that will effect their physical and musical portrayal of the Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, Fadladeen.
Romantic era composer Robert Schumann (1810- 1856) is most likely to be known his numerous lieder. His great interest in literature led him to read Moore’s story of Lalla Rookh. Schumann first came across Moore’s poem in the early 1840s. In a diary shared with his wife, Clara, he declared “Thomas Moore’s Paradise and the Peri has just been making me very happy” (translated Litzmann, p. 328). Schumann then continues by claiming that “something good in the way of music might be made of it”, showing his initial excitement at this prospect. Inspired by Moore, Schumann began to develop his oratorio, Das Paradies und die Peri, with a sustained composition period in the early months of 1843. He wrote this beautiful music in his spare time, as he had a full teaching schedule at the Leipzig conservatory with over 40 pupils. The diary entries are the perfect insight to Schumann’s progress through Clara’s reaction to each new piece of music that he wrote. “The music is as heavenly as the text; what a wealth of feeling and poetry there is in it!” (Litzmann, p. 350) . It is clear that Clara enjoyed the music of her spouse.
For those who may not know the story behind the work, it is this. A Peri, (an angel from Persian mythology) is expelled from paradise. She is told that in order to regain entrance she must bring a gift that is most dear to heaven. The Peri ponders what this could be and makes attempts to bring various gifts. First she brought the last drop of blood from a fallen young hero who died in battle. This was not enough. After this she journeys to Egypt where she acquires the last loving sigh of a lover who died from disease. Again, this was not enough. Eventually she comes across a repentant old sinner who witnesses a young boy praying. She takes a tear from the old man’s face and brings this gift to the gates of paradise. The gates flew open to receive this gift, admitting the Peri once more. It is a rather sweet fairy tale with morality being the core message. Repentance is the greatest gift.
The oratorio premiered in Leipzig on 4th December 1843 and evidently was a rousing success as several repeat performances followed, including Dresden on the 23rd of December and Berlin early the following year. Clara’s diary also records some of the early performance issues that nearly frustrated the work’s premiere, including singers unable to handle the more technically demanding parts. Yet the first audience was attentive , and the press positive. However “Lalla Rookh” was being performed in Germany much before this. Gaspare Spontini wrote a series of tableaux vivant on “Lalla Rookh” for the Berlin royal court in 1821. Furthermore, a translation of “Lalla Rookh” was published in 1839 by the Leipzig-based publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz, so it is quite possible that it was through this that Schumann first became inspired.
The Musical Times contains an article by George Grove which shows a letter written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1844, praising the work of his friend Schumann, in a bid to persuade Ewer and Co. of London to publish the oratorio. “It is a worthy musical translation of that beautiful inspiration of your great poet, Moore” (716). Even though no immediate action was taken, word of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri eventually spread, so much so that it had made waves across the Atlantic. Clara records that the American Musical Institute in New York was preparing it for performance in late 1847. By 1854 it had premiered back in Ireland at Great Brunswick Street, Dublin in a performance of the Royal Choral Institute conducted by John William Glover. According to Freeman’s Journal the music had been re-adapted to Moore’s original poem for the purpose of this performance. As Thomas Moore was from Dublin himself, we can be sure that “Lalla Rookh” and the tale of Paradise and the Peri would already have been well known in in his home city. The Peri premiered in England in June 1856. That performance was given by the Philharmonic Society for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. By 1869 Victor Wilder translated the work into an opera libretto titled Le Paradis et la Péri, performed in Paris at the Théatre impérial italien. These performances not only show just how successful the work was, but that it changed and evolved from performance to performance, and even inspired new works, breathing new life into Thomas Moore’s beautiful poetry.
The image shows the beautifully ornate cover page of “Lalla Rookh”, as illustrated by John Tenniel. The Peri is depicted on the cover leaning across the two lovers’ bodies as she takes the last sigh. Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.
Grove, George – “Schumann’s Music in England” – Musical Times 47.753 (1905): 716-718. JSTOR.
Litzmann, Berthold – Clara Schumann: An artist’s life, based on materials found in diaries and letters, translated by Grace E. Hadow. 1913. Cambridge University Press, 2014. E-book.
Similar to other libraries visited during the course of project ERIN the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) does not curate a dedicated Moore collection. However, the library is in possession of a unique selection of sources for musical re-workings of Lalla Rookh; these include nineteenth-century libretti and printed music. These sources, together with an account, costume designs and illustrations pertaining to the 1821 Berlin premiere of Spontini’s Lalla Rookh (1821), housed at the Lipperheidesche Kostümbibliothek, are valuable, offering much to Moore scholarship, and to the wider contextualisation of musical re-workings of Lalla Rookh. An overview of these sources, with a specific focus on Spontini’s Lalla Rookh (1821) and Nurmahal (1822) will be the subject of a conference paper that I will jointly present with Dr Sarah McCleave at the upcoming Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium at Marsh’s Library, Dublin on 27 May 2017 (the full symposium announcement and programme is included at the end of this blog).
Gaspare [Luigi Pacifico] Spontini (1774-1852) was appointed to the position of Kapellmeister and Musical Director at Berlin State Opera in 1820 by the Prussian Monarch Karl Wilhelm III. Spontini’s two-act opera with ballet called Nurmahal is based on The Light of the Haram; the fourth and final tale from Moore’s Lalla Rookh. Nurmahal was first performed in Berlin on 27 May 1822; exactly five years after the first publication of Lalla Rookh was issued. A selection of extant concert programmes, housed at the SBB’s Manuscripts Reading Room (Handschriften-Lesessal, Potsdamer Straβe), documents 18 Berlin performances of the opera with ballet, which took place between the years 1822 and 1824. An excerpt from the concert programme for the first Berlin performance of
Nurmahal is transcribed below.
“Montag, den 27. May 1822. / Im Opernhause. / zum Erstenmale: / Nurmahal, / oder: /
Das Rosenfest von Caschmir. / Lyrisches Drama in 2 Abtheilungen, nach dem englischen
Gedicht Lalla Rukh, des Th. Moore, / mit Ballets. Musik von Spontini.”
This research trip was kindly and generously funded by the Keats-Shelly Association of America, Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Grant 2017.
Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, QUB
Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium – Marsh’s Library, Dublin | 27 May 2017
27 May 2017 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Thomas Moore’s epic oriental poem, Lalla Rookh. Dubbed “the cream of the copyrights” by its publisher, Thomas Longman, the work was an immediate commercial success, selling out six editions within six months of its initial publication. Longmans would eventually publish almost 100,000 copies of the work, including editions illustrated by prominent artists such as John Tenniel and Daniel Maclise. Lalla Rookh has enjoyed a rich cultural afterlife, with parts of the work set to music by Robert Schumann, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Anton Rubenstein, and numerous theatrical adaptations taking inspiration from Moore’s writing. A major reference point in the genre of Romantic Orientalism, the work has maintained a prominent position in scholarly accounts of the poetry of the Regency period, and its depictions of the dangers of political demagoguery and appeals for religious tolerance have a powerful and durable resonance. Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium commemorates this anniversary by bringing together a range of national and international scholars to present current research on Moore and Lalla Rookh at Marsh’s Library, Dublin, where Moore completed research for his debut poetic collection, Odes of Anacreon.
1000-1100 Panel 1: Lalla Rookh & Music
Sarah McCleave & Tríona O’Hanlon (Queen’s University Belfast):
“Spontini’s Lalla Rûkh and the Subsequent Response of European Composers to Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh”
Anja Bunzel (Maynooth University): “The Sublime Genius: Nineteenth-Century Nationalism in the Peri by Robert Schumann and Thomas Moore”
1100-1130 Tea & Coffee
1130-1230 Panel 2: Lalla Rookh & Literature
Justin Tonra (National University of Ireland Galway): “The Bibliographic Problem of Lalla Rookh”
Daniel S. Roberts (Queen’s University Belfast): “Oriental Artifice in Lalla Rookh”
1345-1445 Panel 3
Jane Moore (Cardiff University): “Thomas Moore’s Songs”
Brian Caraher (Belfast): “From Lalla Rookh to ‘Larry O’Rourke’: Thomas Moore and James Joyce”
1445-1515 Tea & Coffee
1515-1615 Panel 4
Una Hunt (Dublin Institute of Technology): “Thomas Moore, Drawing Room Entertainer or Rebel Songster?”
Matthew Campbell (University of York): “Poetry and the ‘Cause of Tolerance’: Moore, Ferguson, Mangan”
1615-1630 Closing Remarks
This event is organised by Justin Tonra, with the assistance of Matthew Campbell, Brian Caraher, Sarah McCleave, and Sean Ryder (NUI Galway). The symposium is generously supported by the School of Humanities, National University of Ireland Galway, and by Marsh’s Library.
As part of the Horizon 2020 project ERIN: Europe’s Reception of the National Airs and Irish Melodies; Thomas Moore in Europe, Dr Sarah McCleave and Dr Triona O’Hanlon of Queen’s University Belfast are seeking proposals towards a volume of essays on the theme, ‘Thomas Moore and the Global Marketplace’. The purpose of this project will be to track Moore’s reception across the globe.
Proposals of circa 1000 words are invited by 1 July 2016; please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be collecting completed essays by 1 July 2017. If you have any questions, please contact us at the project email.
Image Courtesy of ContentDM Thomas Moore Music Project
My work often involves visiting library and archival institutions in order to view and examine manuscript and/or printed music collections relevant to my research. It can sometimes be difficult to gain access to material, especially if it is very old or rare. Understandably, libraries and archival institutions need to have rules and regulations in place for readers; these include terms for admission, rules of conduct while using their facilities and procedures for examining material. It is necessary to be aware of reading room hours and to find out if you can or need to order items in advance of your visit. All this will help you to plan and use your time more efficiently while there.
Reading Room, Special Collections
During the past few months I have been carrying out research for our project in Special Collections & Archives at the McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast. The Special Collections Unit is located on the first floor of the library and provides an ideal environment for researchers. The bright and spacious reading room has a seating capacity of 40. The Gibson-Massie-Moore collection is a very large archival resource so I always order items in advance of my visit; this practice not only assists library staff, giving them time to locate items, but also benefits me as I know the items I’ve ordered will be there when I arrive so I can start my work without delay. The information desk is located directly beside the reading room and the excellent library staff are very helpful and approachable. On arriving at the desk I present my staff card and then I am issued with a locker key which also includes a tag which you swipe to gain access to the reading room. Readers can store their personal belongings in the lockers which are located to the right of the information desk. Readers also have the option to book the seminar room which is very useful if a team of researchers wishes to meet to examine and discuss items of relevance to their research.
Since our project is based at Queen’s we are very lucky that the majority of sources relevant to our research are located on campus. The ERIN research team would like to take this opportunity to thank Deirdre Wildy, Head of Special Collections, and all the staff at Special Collections for the constant assistance, support and co-operation shown to us throughout the course of our research project. For more information about Special Collections & Archives please visit the link below.
Images Courtesy of Queen’s University Image Bank; Special Collections, The McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast and Thomas Moore in Europe Blog
ERIN, a Horizon 2020 funded research project hosted by Queen’s University Belfast, was launched on 1 September 2015. The aim of this research project is to map Europe’s response to Thomas Moore by examining the dissemination and reception of the Irish Melodies, National Airs and the music associated with Lalla Rookh. This blog is a platform for sharing our work and will allow interested readers to track the progress of our research project while also providing a forum for discussion. We expect to make some exciting discoveries along the way and will be posting content twice a month.
Irish poet-songwriter Thomas Moore (1779-1852) is a significant nineteenth-century figure, renowned for his articulation of national identity through the creation and exchange of poetry and song. Early printed sources for the Irish Melodies, National Airs and Lalla Rookh are extant in libraries throughout Europe. Our research begins with the Gibson-Massie-Moore Collection housed in Special Collections at the McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast. The Gibson-Massie-Moore collection is the largest collection of Moore’s published works in the world; it contains over 1,000 volumes of printed music, texts and volumes of illustrations. We will keep you posted as we develop the various outputs of this project.
Image Courtesy of ContentDM Thomas Moore Music Project