Literary Connections: making the right connections with literature
Blake's Songs

Bartók - Orchestral Works
Atmospheric music for classrooms


Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
William Congreve (1670-1729), The Mourning Bride

Some interesting music for use in teaching - or simply to enjoy after a long day! Clicking on a link will take you to the Amazon page for a recording - if you are unfamiliar with the work, you can often hear samples there. This doesn't claim to be a list of the best music or the best to use in class - or even my favourite CDs - just a few notes, really....

Sadly for UK record dealers, it can be cheaper to use the Amazon site to locate a cheaper version overseas or second-hand - but remember to take account of postage and possible customs charges.

Beethoven, in true romantic style, said: 'What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.'

  • Complete Symphonies: Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman. There are numerous fine recordings of these works but this set is exceptional value. Beethoven, who was born in the same year as Wordsworth, died in the same year as Blake.
  • Piano Sonatas: there are fine complete sets by Richard Goode, Stephen Kovacevich, Daniel Barenboim and others. If you just want the 'Favourite Piano Sonatas' such as the 'Moonlight' and 'Pathetique', the Duo CD set by Alfred Brendel is a very good choice.
  • BBC Radio 3's website currently provides excellent resources for its Beethoven Experience, including the opportunity (for a short time) to download excellent accounts of the symphonies by the BBC Philharmonic. We're fortunate up north - we could go to hear them live!
Mozart: his symphonies help create a good atmosphere for coming into class and settling down - apart from their intrinsic beauty, of course!
  • The Symphonies: Pinnock's set is an economical way to acquire excellent modern recordings, so long as you try the alternative retailers, who saved me a huge amount on this set.
Other composers
  • Bartók - Orchestral Works: the Music for Strings, Percussion & Celeste is particularly atmospheric music for stimulating drama, talk and writing. This Reiner recording is a classic.
William Blake
Mozart was born the year before William Blake - and Blake and Beethoven died in the same year. There are other interesting comparisons with Beethoven. However Blake didn't, as far as we know, go deaf.
Shakespeare has inspired a huge amount of music.
  • Romeo and Juliet has produced several pieces that work well in class: by Tchaikovsky (tell them to listen out for the sword fight) and Prokofiev - brilliant for writing or drama!
    There are many other recordings of these works - and a Classic FM one includes both the Tchaikovsky and excerpts from Prokofiev's music.
  • Vaughan Williams set some words from the last Act of The Merchant of Venice in his beautiful Serenade to Music, available in recordings by Adrian Boult, Roger Norrington and others.
World War One
See the World War One page for details of music relevant to that period.