Narrated by Cathy Dobson

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is widely recognized as Germany's greatest poet and writer. His early works are rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which was also the early phase of German Romanticism.

Entitled simply Story, this short novella belongs firmly in this early period and is characteristic of Goethe's early work. His hallmark fascination with nature and the point where it fuses with man-made art to create something more beautiful still is magnificently displayed here in his description of the wonderful overgrown ruined castle. His sense of the dramatic, vividly conjured up in lyrical prose is reflected in the market fire and the escape of the showman's tiger and lion. Story is the narrative of a princess, whose husband has gone out hunting. She is inspired by her uncle showing her paintings of a nearby ruined castle which has become overgrown with trees to ask him to take her there on their afternoon ride. On the way, they pass through the busy market and see that there is a showman exhibiting a range of wild beasts. When they reach the base of the castle, they have a fine view back towards their own castle and the town beneath it, but they quickly spot that something is wrong. A fire has broken out in the marketplace. The uncle sets off with all haste to see if he can help out. Meanwhile, the princess returns more slowly...but suddenly finds herself face to face with a tiger which has escaped from the menagerie in the confusion of the fire. From this follows an extraordinary and astounding set of events.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror as well as a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. His stories were highly influential during the 19th century, and he is one of the major authors of the Romantic movement.

'The Mines of Falun' tells the story of Elis Fröbom, a sailor who returns from the East Indies to Gothenburg in Sweden, only to discover that his mother has died and he is alone in the world. He tells his story to an old miner who befriends him on the quay, and the miner tells him about the magical mines of Falun and urges him to become a miner. Soon after this, he sets out on a journey and constantly sees the mysterious old miner ahead of him, showing him the way, and he realises that he is on the way to Falun.

Once there he is taken into the house of the mine owner, Pehrson Dahlsjö, and falls in love with his lovely daughter, Ulla Dahlsjö. But the ghostly old miner will not permit Elis to be distracted from mining by his love for an earthly woman, and Elis is torn between his love for Ulla and his obsession with the underground world of fires and minerals. It is this obsession, and the pull of the ghost of the miner, which leads to his destruction.

'Gambler's Luck' tells the story of a young German baron who is enjoying a streak of beginner's luck at the gambling tables. As his winnings mount up, the young man is gradually becoming sucked into the addictive habit of gambling. One night a stranger appears at the gambling table and watches the baron intently. The stranger appears night after night, until the baron is infuriated and challenges the man. A later chance meeting between the two results in the stranger relating a most unusual and gripping tale...

'The Cremona Violin' is the story of Councillor Krespel, an eccentric violin maker who lives with a mysterious woman, Antonia, who has the most beautiful singing voice ever heard by anyone in the town, but she was only ever heard to sing once. Krespel makes the best violins in the world but never sells any and plays each violin only once. There is a strange secret behind this odd behaviour...but it is only years later that the strange truth comes out.

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