Soul Music

Soul Music

BBC Radio 4

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact

Categories: Music

Listen to the last episode:

Antonin Dvorak wrote his Gypsy Songs in 1880. He was passionate about the folk music of his native Bohemia and set a poem by Czech poet Adolf Heyduk to music. Songs My Mother Taught Me is the fourth song in the cycle.

Songs my Mother taught me In the days long vanished Seldom from her eyelids Were the teardrops banished....

It's a wistful melancholic piece evoking memory and loss. Soul Music hears the stories of musicians, poets and singers from around the world of why they are so drawn to it. The poet Raine Geoghegan is the daughter of a Romany woman whose life was weighed down with the loss of her father at a young age. Raine identifies with the sadness of the music because it not only represents grief at the loss of her father but also for the loss of a way of life for the gypsy people. For Emily MacGregor it's all about the music we inherit from our parents. She is writing a book about music and grief and says this piece perfectly represents the bittersweet feeling of listening to music associated with the loss of a loved one. Dvorak had already lost three children in infancy by the time he wrote his Zigeuner Lieder. Paris based violinist and conductor Bartu Elci-Ozsoy associates Songs with the innocence of childhood and was moved to perform it at a benefit concert he organised in aid of the children affected by the devastating earthquake in his native Turkey and Syria in early 2023. The Korean soprano Sumi Jo recorded it in honour of her mother and presented it to her a year before she died in gratitude for her determination to see her daughter become a professional singer. When The Scotsman newspaper commissioned a series of lockdown concerts in Spring 2020 cellist Sua-Lee chose to recreate the concert by Beatrice Harrison a century earlier when she played the piece accompanied by nightingales in her garden in Surrey. Sua set up her cello in woodland near her home in Grantown- on-Spey and performed Songs My Mother Taught Me to a collection of woodland creatures Singer Ruby Hughes performed the American composer Charles Ives' version of the piece for a collection called Bright Travellers - music curated and composed by Helen Grimes from poems by Fiona Benson. Ives wrote his own version of Dvorak's piece not long after the Czech composer had settled in America. She loves the rocking gentle lullaby sensation created by the lilting melodies of both Ives' and Dvorak's compositions.

Featuring additional recordings by Sua Lee and Zoe Challenor

Producer: Maggie Ayre

Previous episodes

  • 160 - Songs My Mother Taught Me 
    Sat, 11 Nov 2023
  • 159 - Fire and Rain 
    Sat, 04 Nov 2023
  • 158 - Pata Pata 
    Sat, 28 Oct 2023
  • 157 - Defying Gravity from Wicked 
    Sat, 21 Oct 2023
  • 156 - I Will Always Love You 
    Sat, 14 Oct 2023
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