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Ludwig van Beethoven


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“The Agony and The Ecstasy” 


Come, join us... Our stage? Andrew Marvell’s The Garden for...

"a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, and discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.”                         –Samuel Johnson Metaphyiscal Poets


Anchor 1

Hear the metaphysical poets exhibiting an "avid, eclectic interest in science [with] imagery from all the new and exciting areas of scientific learning: astronomy, mathematics, geography, medicine". 

-James J. Balakier on the metaphysical poets

Meditate on the central truths of human existence, giving rise to profoundly

moving words and music, eloquently expressing the mortality and 

transience of our lives.

"He affects the metaphysics […] in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love."

- John Dryden on John Donne



"The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtilty surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased."

- Samuel Johnson on metaphysical poetry


Really unimpressed, or just intellectual snobbery? Thankfully the mine of wit, conceits and far-fetched similes and metaphors of metaphysical poetry has inspired many composers right from the ‘Elizabethan World Picture’ to today.

Metaphysical poets and our selection of music inspired by them

  • John Donne (1572–1631)

    • ​Parry At the round earth’s imagined corners

    • Harris Bring us, O Lord God  for double choir         "No noise nor silence, but one equal music"

    • Britten The Holy Sonnets of John Donne Op.35

            selected interpolations

  • George Herbert (1593–1633)  

    • Judith Weir Love bade me welcome  - a cappella arrangement of No.1 from Two Human Hymns

  • Andrew Marvell (1621–1678)

    • Lloyd Pfautsch Musick’s Empire from Triptych

  • Henry Vaughan (1622–1695)

    • Parry My soul, there is a country

    • Finzi Welcome Sweet & Sacred Feast Op.27 No.3 for the BBC

  • Edward Taylor (1646-1729)

    • Finzi My lovely one Op 27.No.1

    • Finzi God is gone up Op 27.No.2

  • Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

    • Richard Rodney Bennett A Good Night


Songs of the times

  • Dowland Can she excuse my wrongs?  (for ‘broken’ consort)

Entreaties of a frustrated lover  Perhaps he would have found solace in the

new Elizabethan recreational drug of choice – TOBACCO!


  • East O Metaphysical Tobacco

"Fetched as far from Morocco, thy searching fume exhales the rheum"


  • Tobias Hume Tobacco No.3 from Musicall Humors (1605)

"Tobacco is like love"


  • ​Jaakko Mӓntyjӓrvi Smoking Can Kill Modern Madrigal No.3 

      (A general warning to be carried on the unit packaging of all tobacco products, together             with additional warnings exclusively for cigarettes) 

An untimely warning, literally written on the back of a fag packet.


Complementary repertoire



  • Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel – a selection

Including the final I have trod the upward and the downward slope – performed out of context, contrary to his widow's instructions – how irreverent!


  • Jonathan Dove Into thy hands

Two prayers of St Edmund

So, join us on an exploration of all things Metaphysical through a labyrinth

of themes: Lovers as Microcosms, Neoplatonic Love, Religious

Enlightenment as Sexual Ecstasy,  The Search for the One True Religion

and a maze of motifs and symbols – spheres and the compass, discovery and

conquest, reflections and mirage, Angels & Demons and Blood.


‘The devil has the best tunes’? Methinks not  - the grim reaper has them!

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