When William Shakespeare Inspired Great Classical Music — In 3 Acts

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6min 35sec
Image: William Shakespeare
A portrait of William Shakespare. The Bard died April 23, 1616, but continues to inspire us -- often through music.

Four centuries ago this Saturday, history's greatest playwright shuffled off this mortal coil.

William Shakespeare's work continues to inspire actors, writers and audiences around the world. It also inspired composers to write music that leaves listeners awestruck.

CPR Classical honors The Bard -- who died April 23, 1616 -- all this week by playing hours of the music he inspired.

Here are just a few examples. Click the audio above to hear Charley Samson's look at three great moments when Shakespeare's gift for words and storytelling inspired music for the ages:

  • Felix Mendelssohn's music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet"
  • Ralph Vaughan Willams' "Serenade to Music" inspired by "The Merchant of Venice"

For more on "Romeo and Juliet" in classical music, check out this video from the Colorado Symphony -- which recently honored The Bard with a three-concert Shakespeare festival. CPR Classical will replay the Colorado Symphony's recent "Romeo and Juliet" concert, including music by Tchaikovsky, Nino Rota and Sergei Prokofiev, at 7 p.m. Thursday.