Four chords in the winds open the curtain on Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before a flurry of violins evoke an assembling swarm of sprites. Mendelssohn’s music captures the characters and preposterous action of Shakespeare’s comedy – not to mention its flamboyant spirit – from the mischievous fairies to the braying of the hapless Bottom-turned-Donkey. But for all its supernatural subject matter, a buzzing cello descent half way through the Overture has a more prosaic origin...

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