Raum’s King Lear

Saskatchewan composer Elizabeth Raum has left her imprint on the classical music landscape of Canada.  We’re always delighted when we get a chance to play her music – and are very excited for the SSO Wind Quintet to be playing Raum’s take on Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Elizabeth was commissioned by Regina’s Globe Theatre to write incidental music to their 1987 production of King Lear. After the production, she decided to use the themes in a woodwind quintet with four connected movements: ‘King Lear’s Fanfare’; ‘The Fool’s Song’; ‘Regan and Goneril’; and ‘Cordelia’s Death’. The original quintet has the alto trombone playing the usual French horn part of the woodwind quintet …, but she also wrote a version with French horn which is featured in the storm section of the third movement as representing Lear’s ‘Blow winds blow and crack your cheeks’ monologue.

Raum’s is one of many musical takes on Lear – maybe most curiously is the tale of Verdi’s failed opera King Lear.  Though the great opera composer had begun work on Lear, he sadly abandoned it. Shakespeare’s darkest play about an aging, mad monarch and his beyond-sadistic daughters maybe needed to wait until the invention of modern dissonance to penetrate its dark heart.  So Verdi repurposed much of the music he had planned to use for Lear and used it in his masterpiece Simon Boccanagra.

Hear Raum’s King Lear with the SSO Wind Quintet on February 3rd at If Music Be the Food of Love.

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