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The Classical Music and "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Updated on May 20, 2014

Fifty Shades Album - Preview

Introduction to the Bestseller

Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestseller. The quality of the book can be discussed or not discussed; I don’t care. However, I know now which ingredients you need to write a bestseller,

  • Take some connection to a famous series, in this case to the Twilight Saga,
  • Take few implausible characters,
  • Take the plot of a well overused old Cinderella story moved into the 21st century,
  • Take as many sex scenes as possible, the more bizarre they are, the better.

Mix all ingredients carefully, and fry them on a very high heat in a fireproof dish.

Bon appetite!

Do you want to know what I liked on Fifty Shades of Grey books?

I liked the great introduction to classical music! I loved it! Thank you Mrs. E L James for the outstanding ideas and remarkable listening!

I have for you a few examples of the music used in E L James' books and some information about the composers as well.

Tallis "Spem in Alium"

Thomas Tallis and “Spem in Aulium”

There was once upon a time a masterly composer of sacred songs. It’s now long ago, quite many hundred years, since Thomas Tallis was doing his musical work. Nobody can tell the date of his birth. It might be 1505 or 1510, … or it’s somewhere between those years. No-one knows it anymore.

He was an organist at Waltham Abbey, about 22 km North of London, as something unthinkable happened. It was the time of the tyrant, though charismatic, King of England, Henry VIII.

One day Henry decided to have a divorce, something impossible for a worshiper of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope didn't granted the divorce, but Henry annulled his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon anyway, and married Ann Boleyn. For this doing, the Pope Clement excommunicated Henry.

England’s separation from Vatican followed as a consequence of these events. Henry was now the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and he dissolved all existing Catholic monasteries and churches. The Waltham Abbey – Henry VIII’s favorite place for resting – was the last English abbey to be shut down. At this time, it was 1540, Thomas Tallis lost his job as an organist there.

He found a job as a singing gentleman (Lay Clerk) at the Canterbury Cathedral. Three years later 1543, his status improved, and he became a senior Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.

Thomas Tallis was composing at a difficult time during the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism. Tallis avoided the religious controversies and managed his position as a performer and composer at the royal court skillfully and professionally well.

Tallis stayed at the Chapel Royal during the reign of Henry VIII followed by his son Edward, both were Protestants. He stayed at the same post also during the ruling of two Henry VIII’s daughters, first Mary I, she was Catholic, and after her death, Elizabeth I, she was a Protestant.

He died in Greenwich in the year 1585.

Tallis composed many Latin masses and motets, one of them is ‘Spem in alium’ which is mentioned in the book Fifty Shades of Grey. Anastasia Steele thinks, “It was… overwhelming.”

Tallis, "Allegri Miserere" / I absolutely love this piece!

The Original Tune by Thomas Tallis

Ralph Vaughan Williams and “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”

Here, are Anastasia Steele's thoughts about the music, "... listening to a classical piece, 'Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis' by Ralpf Vaughn Williams. Oh, Fifty has a sense of humor, and I love him for it. Will this stupid grin ever leave my face?" ... I think, she liked it very much!

This piece is mentioned in the new book Fifty Shades Darker and is also named “Tallis Fantasia”. It's written 1910 by an English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He has composed it for an expanded string orchestra and revised his work twice, in 1913 and 1919.

As you see, the composer wrote this work around 343 years after Thomas Tallis' original work from 1567. The original tune is named Why fum'th in fight” No. 9, in Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) is highly educated musician (the Royal College of Music, Trinity College, Cambridge), friend of other British composer Gustav Holst, and pupil of Maurice Ravel.

Vaughan Williams was fascinated by English folk songs and English Tudor music, sacred and secular. He was inspired by and even adopted medieval tonalities and methods of counterpoint in his own works.

In 1935, he received the Order of Merit.

"Tallis Fantasia" by Ralph Vaughan Williams

A. Marcello - "Oboe Concerto"

"Oboe Concerto" by Alessandro Marcello and the Transcription by Johann Sebastian Bach

Here, is Anastasia Steel about the music, "That was a beautiful piece ... It was exquisite, but very sad, such a melancholy melody."

  • "Oboe Concerto in D minor" by Alessandro Marcello, average duration of the piece is 11 min, date of composition is 1716, date of publication 1717 in Amsterdam, Marcello was 48 at this time.
  • "Concerto for solo harpsichord (keyboard) No. 3 in D minor BWV 974 (transcription after Alessandro Marcello)" by Johann Sebastian Bach, average duration of the piece 10 min. Bach was around 30 at this time.

Who was Marcello (born in Venice 1669, died in Padua 1747)? He was everything but a first-class composer. He was a lawyer, philosopher, diplomat, nobleman, poet, mathematician, book publisher, and boss of the Accademia degli Animosi.

He was composing under the pseudonym "Eterio Stinfalico", and even in the twentieth century it wasn't known that Bach's "Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 974", was a transcription of Marcello's "Oboe Concerto in D minor". Just to make it more questionable, the work of Bach and the other one of Alessandro Marcello, are often attributed to Bendetto Marcello. The last one is younger and more famous brother of Alessandro…

I would say that we have more questions than answers about this beautiful composition.

Bach's Transcription of Marcello's Concerto

Delibes "Lakme"

“The Flower Duett” by Leo Delibes from the opera “Lakme”

E. L. James describes the music in “Fifty Shades of Grey”, “The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing.” Anna Steele feels it as, “… all my senses are in disarray… It sends delicious shivers up my spine… I sit and listen to the angelic voices teasing and seducing me.”

Leo (Clement Philibert) Delibes, born in St. Germain-du-Val 1836, died in Paris 1891. At the early age of eleven, he’s already studied music at the Paris Conservatory. As he was seventeen, he was working as an organist of St. Pierre de Cahillot.

Later in his life he changed his vocation and worked as accompanist at the Opera from Paris rising to second chorus-master in 1865. From 1866, he devoted his life only musical composition. He wrote successful operettas, operas, and ballets.

Patricia Rozema, making her film “I've Heard the Mermaids Singing,” used “The Flower Duett” and made it famous, and British Airways were using it in their commercials as well.

Chopin - "Prelude 4"

"Prelude for Piano No. 4 in E minor, Op. 28/4" by Frederic Chopin

Ana Steele, in Fifty Shades of Grey is, “…listening to the magical sound of the melodic lament,” seeing Christian Grey “…playing beautifully, lost in the melancholy of the music … that’s so full of poignant sorrow.”

Frederic Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland 1810. He died in Paris 1849. Chopin as a child, like Mozart, was a recognized performer of music. In 1832, he settled in Paris and established himself as a composer and over-the-top paid piano teacher.

Chopin was unlucky in love with Countess Delphine Potocka. He poured this devastating feeling into his music. It's especially to hear in this "Prelude No.4 Op. 28", written at the composer’s lowest point.

Later, Chopin fell in love again. This time it was the novelist George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant). They stayed for few years together, but after George Sand has written her novel Lucrezia Floriani, he felt that she’s portrayed their relationship critical and negative in it. Their affair ended 1847, three years before composer’s death.

This "Prelude No.4 Op.28" was played along with Mozart’s "Requiem" at Chopin’s funeral.

© 2012 Maria Janta-Cooper


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    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 5 years ago from UK

      Hi Jamila, I love those pieces too. Sometimes it is fun being able to listen to great music and have some written information at the same time. I think. :-)

    • jamila sahar profile image

      jamila sahar 5 years ago

      great hub ! wow, so interesting thanks for sharing, what a wonderful gift of writing you have, in the way you made these delightful musical pieces come to life ! wonderful

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 5 years ago from UK

      Glad you liked it :-)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a great idea to review the music mentioned in a work of fiction! Thank you for all the information and for sharing the lovely music, jantamaya. I'm familiar with some of the pieces that you describe, and I love them, but there are also a couple that I haven't heard before. I'll be returning to this hub again to make sure that I hear all the music.