Classical Chat: Sounds like folk tales and legends

The Wolf's Glen from Der Freischtz, a key work inspired by folklore
The Wolf's Glen from Der Freischtz, a key work inspired by folklore
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Dark and sinister forests where good and evil do battle; magic, monsters and heroes: it’s no wonder folk tales and legends make gripping subjects for music.

Composers have seldom been able to resist tapping into the stories passed down from generation to generation when it comes to finding inspiration.

Related: Music inspired by great reads
Folk stories often provide a great excuse to let the imagination roam: coming up with suitably dramatic or exotic music to match the supernatural goings-on, or writing descriptive music for the fantastical people and places within them.

All sorts of pieces have been written based on traditional legends, from epic orchestral works to intimate songs and chamber pieces.

Here are a few of the very best to try out if you want an evening of storytelling:

Mozart - The Magic Flute: Masonic rituals and secrets put on stage or simply a wild tale of magic and mystery from Egypt? Either way, the opera is crammed with extraordinary music.

Weber - Der Freischütz: This is the opera that kicked off German romanticism with its vivid and dark tale involving magic bullets, a hunter and the sinister Wolf’s Glen.

Schubert - Erlkönig: A terrifying trip into the woods for solo singer and piano as a father and child are hunted by the elf-king of the title. In four minutes Schubert conjures the thrill of the chase and the gloomy, gothic setting of the countryside.

Ravel - Gaspard de la Nuit: Three ferociously difficult pieces for piano based on morbid tales. Dive into the watery depths with Ondine the nymph and meet the crazy dwarf Scarbo.

Strauss - Till Eulenspiegel: Typically madcap collection of bawdy medieval escapades are set superbly to music as the title character wreaks havoc and evades justice and death in breezy fashion.