Pairings of great literature and classical music

Whenever I read literature, I try to pair it with relevant music, which is either based on the literature or mentioned explicitly in it. If you have recommendations, please share them.

Book of Job

    • Orlande de Lassus, Lectiones Sacrae Novem, Ex Libris Hiob Excerptae (ca. 1582)

Homer, The Iliad

    • Jacques Offenbach, La belle Hélène
    • Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens 

Homer, The Odyssey

    • Claudio Monteverdi, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland)



    • Richard Strauss, Elektra

Oedipus Rex

    • Igor Stravinsky, Oedipus Rex

Euripides, The Bacchae

    • Jules Massenet, Bacchus

Virgil, The Aeneid

    • Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas 
    • Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens (The Trojans)

Ovid, Metamorphoses

    • Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice)
    • Franz Liszt, Orpheus
    • Ludwig van Beethoven, Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (The Creation of Prometheus)

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

    • Franz Liszt, A Symphony to Dante’s Divine Comedy (also known as Dante Symphony)
    • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Francesca da Rimini

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    • Henry Purcell, King Arthur
    • The Hilliard Ensemble, Medieval English Music: Masters of the 14th and 15 Centuries (Harmonia Mundi)

William Shakespeare


    • Johannes Brahms, Ophelia Lieder
    • Frédéric Chopin, Nocturne in G minor, Op. 15, No. 3
    • Franz Liszt, Hamlet
    • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Hamlet, Fantasy Overture in F Minor, Op. 67
    • Dmitri Shostakovich, Hamlet Suite
    • Dmitri Shostakovich, Song of Ophelia
    • Hector Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique
    • Hector Berlioz, Tristia

Julius Caesar

    • Robert Schumann, Julius Caesar Overture

King Lear

    • Claude Debussy, Le roi Lear
    • Hector Berlioz, King Lear, Op. 4: Overture


    • Giuseppe Verdi, Macbeth
    • Richard Strauss, Macbeth

The Merchant of Venice

    • Vaughan Williams, Serenade to Music (based on Act V, Scene 1)
    • Gabriel Fauré, Shylock, Op. 57

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    • Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Benjamin Britten, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


    • Giuseppe Verdi, Otello
    • Antonín Dvořák, Othello Overture
    • Gioachino Rossini, Otello

Romeo & Juliet

    • Hector Berlioz, Roméo et Juliette
    • Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet
    • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Romeo and Juliet

The Tempest

    • Jean Sibelius, The Tempest (also known as Stormen)
    • Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 17 (Der Strum, meaning “the tempest” in German)
    • Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 23 (Appasionata, meaning “passionate” in Italian)

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

    • Vaughan Williams, The Pilgrim’s Progress

George Herbert, The Temple

    • Henry Purcell, Harmonia Sacra (includes “Longing” with the song title based on the first line of the poem, “With sick and famish’d eyes”)
    • John and Charles Wesley, “Teach me, my God and King”
    • Vaughan Williams, Five Mystical Songs (includes “Easter,” “I Got Me Flowers,” “Love Bade Me Welcome,” “The Call,” “Antiphon”)

John Milton, Paradise Lost

    • Joseph Haydn, The Creation (also based on Genesis and the Psalms)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

    • Franz Schubert, “Gretchen am Spinnrade”
    • Robert Schumann, Scenes from Goethe’s Faust 
    • Hector Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust
    • Franz Liszt, Faust Symphony

Herman Melville, Billy Budd

    • Benjamin Britten, Billy Budd

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

    • Richard Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra
    • Gustav Mahler, Third Symphony (includes “Zarathustra’s Roundelay”)

Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native

    • Gustav Holst, Egdon Heath

Oscar Wilde, Salome

    • Richard Strauss, Salome

Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

    • Ludwig van Beethoven, Kreutzer Sonata

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

    • Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice
    • Antonín Dvořák, Symphony No. 9 (also known as New World Symphony)
    • Edvard Grieg, Tak for Dit Råd
    • Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold

W. H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

    • Leonard Bernstein, Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety

Walker Percy, The Second Coming

    • Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 (suggested by Lewis Peckham)
    • Franz Schubert, Quintet in A Major for Piano and Strings, “Trout Quintet” (listened to by Allie in Will Barrett’s Mercedes)
    • Richard Strauss, Vier letzte Lieder, “Four Last Songs” (listened to by Will and Jack Curl at St. Mark’s Convalescent House)

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