Thursday’s Music Spot: How Sweet the Moonlight Sleeps

Mostly Shakespeare doesn’t work on film for me. I only have a short list of Shakespeare plays on film I have thoroughly enjoyed. There’s two Hamlets, Lawrence Olivier’s and Franco Zeffirelli’s, as well as Zeffierelli’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The comedies, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Kevin Kline, and Trevor Nunn’s “Twelfth Night”. And the BBC productions of the seven plays of the War of the Roses: Richard II; Henry IV, V, and VI; and Richard III.

I think part of the problem most directors have when approaching Shakespeare is they simply don’t understand the medium of film. They want to give us the play, and nothing but the play.

But I have to say that director Michael Radford got his film of “The Merchant of Venice” right and gave me my all-time favorite Shakespeare. From the set designs to the actors to the music by Jocelyn Pook, he takes me to a time and place that Shakespeare would absolutely have loved.

In Act 5 Scene 1, Jocelyn Pook gives us this lovely piece of music, How sweet the moonlight sleeps.The voice is that of Andreas Scholl, a German countertenor, specializing in Baroque music. Enjoy.

The Guitarist

Beautiful hands you have, I said to her.

Why, thank you, she said. I get them from my mother. My mother has very beautiful hands.

I reached over and took her hand in mine. I turned the hand over and looked at her palm. There were calluses on her fingers. You must be a musician? I asked her.

She nodded. A guitarist.

What kind of guitar do you play? I asked, interested.

Classical, she said, then added, John Williams style.

I would like to hear you play sometime. I really wanted to hear her play. It wasn’t just a pick-up line.

I could play now.

Please.

She got up and walked over to her guitar case. It lay against the wall. She opened the case and she brought out a beautiful guitar. She came back over and sat down beside me. The guitar on her lap showed that it had been played a great deal. This was someone who took her craft serious. I liked that. She twisted the tuning keys just a little and said, Let’s see. Then she played. She played beautifully.

At the end of her piece, I asked, Is that Vivaldi? I was trying to show that I knew at least a little about music.

Bach. I’ve been working on some of his violin pieces. Arrange them for guitar.

What do you love about Bach? I asked. I liked Bach. I just didn’t like the organ pieces. I don’t like organ. Except when it is played as support. Like some of the rock and roll bands of the sixties.

Oh, he’s so complex. There isn’t anything he can’t do.

I find Bach and Vivaldi and the other Baroque composers made music that was so peaceful. And it was such a chaotic age.

Kind of like ours, she followed up. The guitar rested on her lap. She looked into my eyes with her dark eyes.

Very much like ours. Though we do get some breaks from time to time.

Yes. There was a sadness to her eyes. The kind of sadness that comes with living a sad life.

Why are you so sad? I asked, going deeper.

Why do you say that?

There is such sadness in your eyes.

I’m sorry. I don’t think you want to explore my sadness.

I thought for a second, then I answered her, I do.

Would you like to make love to me? she asked out of the blue.

Yes. But only if we can get to know each other. It’s too early for that.

She smiled. I liked her smile. I leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips.