Composer of the Week - any thoughts on the format?
I know Donald Macleod always seems to get a good press here, and it may be heretical to suggest this, but would anyone like a bit of a change? (And is anyone else mildly irritated by the approach of 'telling a story' about the composer?) Having said that, I grant that DM's radio manner is attractive, that he does his research well and that his slot is, relatively speaking, one of the best on R3, because he doesn't gush and over-use laudatory adjectives like so many other presenters these days. But I sometimes wish that other presenters, perhaps with a special interest in a particular composer, might be brought in to vary things a bit (and perhaps go easy on the biographical aspects of a composer's life). I think a long time ago that was the case. In fact, I still have off-air tapes of a whole week of Charles Ives CoW programmes from 1998. I knew nothing of Ives then, but it instantly converted me into an admirer. I can't remember who presented it (was it Chris de Souza?), and no longer recognize the voice. (I failed to record the intros because I had to get the whole programme on an extended one-hour tape!) I think back in the 90s DM had a programme called something like 'Lives of the Composers', and at some point that swallowed up the more varied 'Composer of the Week' format with different presenters.
Has anyone any similar thoughts? I know I'm sticking my head on the block here!
I seem to remember one or two cases lately where he did have conversations with some 'expert', and I thought it would have been better for DM to have got on with it himself in the usual way. (If this didn't happen, and I'm thinking of some other programme - my apologies!)
I don't think I'd really like other presenters for the whole programme. There might be some good ones, but in view of R3's ability to trivialise everything, it might going down the 'celebrity' route like so many other things. (One wouldn't have wanted 'Talking About Music' to be presented by anyone but Antony Hopkins.)
Picture if you will Summer 1997, and six successive Mondays, at midday (memory tells me that Donald Macleod was at about that time presenting TtN):
12:00pm Composer of the Week: Dvorak Abroad
Presented by Susan Sharpe, with readings by David Holt. In 1884, Dvorak (1841-1904) arrived in England for his debut at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Greeted with great enthusiasm, he was hailed as the lion of London's concert season and returned home with English commissions and invitations. Tui nati vulnerati (Stabat mater). Prague Philharmonic Choir, Czech Philharmonic/Jiri Belohlavek. Gypsy Melodies, Op 55: Nos 1 and 4. Gabriela Benackova (soprano), Rudolf Firkusny (piano). Symphony No 7 in D minor. Czech Philharmonic/Jiri Belohlavek.
12:00pm Composer of the Week: Maurice Ravel
Chris de Souza presents a week of programmes exploring the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), with reminiscences from his student Manuel Rosenthal, and Madeleine Milhaud, widow of the composer Darius Milhaud. Introduced by George Benjamin, artistic consultant for Radio 3's Sounding the Century. 1: `Painting Pictures'. Iridescent colours are the hallmark of Ravel's music. Today's programme explores some of his most evocative works through historical recordings of `Tzigane', played by Ginette Neveu, the `Chansons madecasses', with Gerard Souzay. Other songs include `Chanson francaise' and `Sainte', and the week begins with spectacular `Fanfare'.
12:00pm Composer of the Week: Paul Patterson
In the week of his fiftieth birthday, the composer himself introduces a five-part retrospective of his music. 1: `Beginnings'. Kyrie. London Chorale/Roy Wales. Intrada, Op 7. David Titterington (organ). Chromascope. Besses o' the Barn Band/Ifor James. Concerto for Orchestra. BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier.
12:00pm Composers of the Week: Paris 1750
Geoffrey Baskerville introduces the work of four contemporaries of Jean-Marie Leclair who were all in Paris in 1750. Corrette: Variations on `Que vous diraige maman'. Robert Mandel (vielle a roue), Miklos Spanyi (organ). Leclair: Overture in A, Op 13 No 2. Florilegium. Balbastre: Noel: votre bonte grand dieu. Rene Saorgin (organ). Jacques Duphly: La damanzy. Sandrine Pasquier (harpsichord). Corrette: Carillon des morts. Musica Antiqua Koln/Reinhard Goebel. De Mondonville: Sonata No 2 (Pieces de clavecin, Op 3). John Holloway (violin), Davitt Moroney (harpsichord). Corrette: Concerto comique No 14 (La choisy). Ricercar Consort.
12:00pm Composers of the Week: Schola Cantorum
Roger Nichols presents a survey of music by composers associated with the French academy founded by Vincent d'Indy to counter the influence of the Paris Conservatoire. d'Indy: Ma lissette. Emma Calve (piano). Roussel: Promenade sentimentale (Rustiques). Jean Boguet (piano). Canteloube: Hymne dans l'aurore (Triptyque). Frederica von Stade (mezzo), RPO/Antonio de Almeida. De Severac: Sur l'etang, le soir; A cheval dans la prairie. Aldo Ciccolini (piano). d'Indy: Symphonie sur un chant montagnard. Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer (piano), Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch.
12:00pm Composers of the Week: Early Spanish Music
With Catherine Bott. 1: `From the Moors to the Cantigas de Santa Maria'. Penalosa: Por las sierras de Madrid. Gothic Voices. Trad: M'saddar; Sana'a. Atrium Musicae de Madrid. La madre de la novia; Noches buenas. Esther Lamandier (voice/organ). Benedicamus domino. Obsidienne. Salve porta regni glorie; Salve fa, fa, mi, fa; ut, re, mi, ut. Discantus. Ad sepulcrum beati Jacobi. Anonymous Four. Non e gran causa. New London Consort. Nenbre sse te, madre. Tim Rayborn (voice). Alfonso X El Sabio: Santa Maria, strela do dia. Hesperion XX. A que faz os peccadores. Florata. Dum pater familias. New London Consort.
Is the suggestion turning back the clock? If so, for better or worse?
[I slightly share DP's fears and CotW 2012 style would simply be a succession of the regular presenters being given a turn, same again rather than a fresh approach.]
I like the look of that CotW Paris 1750 programme, ff. I remember having an LP with some music by Corrette on, but he is an almost completely forgotten name now.
I think the multiple presenter approach would be a better option, if only because it can allow specialists (as for BaL) to introduce and talk about composers they know well, whereas poor old Donald McC can't know everything. And I would like the chance for the work of the more familiar composers to be explored through their less familiar works (after all, the well known ones are always being broadcast) - quite often DM doesn't do this but simply sticks to the well-trodden paths.
Have to say I don't altogether agree with JFLL about reducing the amount of biographical detail on Composers of the Week. I was of that generation still brought up on the supposed self-sufficiency of works, with little background info on the composer in question. Placing him or her in his or her context, including details about the composer's character, life, and especially his or her relationshup to the historical period concerned, its artistic movements and political aspects, drew out the music in much more rounded out ways.
That said, there has come to be a tendency for Donald Macleod to concentrate on such biographical and contextual detail at the expense of the works - their form, how the composer went about composing, his or her influences, whom the composer influenced, and above all dates of composition, which are often inexplicably omitted; and for this reason I can quite understand the view that there is nowadays too mch story line. It all comes down to a matter of balance.
To the best of my knowledge Donald Macleod researches his own CotW programmes which, whilst very satisfactory for listeners and presenter is very demanding for the latter. I remember hearing Chris de Souza's week on Ravel and enjoyed it very much. The contributions from Manuel Rosenthal, Madame Milhaud and George Benjamin were very pertinent and made a refreshing change from what can become a rather formulaic approach. Similarly Catherine Bott presenting a period of composition in which she has a strong personal interest as a performer is very valuable and was a delightful set of programmes.
I could imagine other presenters guesting on the series; I am sure that Iain Burnside would be excellent though, as with Miss Bott, I would not want it to impinge too much on his performance career. There are some presenters that I could not imagine guesting here.... though a little bird whispers in my ear that the research discipline might do their presentation style a lot of good.
It seems odd to me that the same programme occupies two "prime" slots on the same day: lunchtime and tea-time. Sometimes CotW is of a more obscure or specialist subject, making it a very long hour if you are not interested. Much that I appreciate the programme, I think this could deter some listeners from coming to Radio 3.
It's only a couple of (separated) hours a day, not a whole ****** week! Schubert was pretty "specialist"!
Originally Posted by Flay
That all sounds pretty good, and I wouldn't mind that approach. My fears are that, fifteen years later, things have changed and the current powers that be may not be trusted to keep up such a high standard. Once the cast is broken, what might they want to introduce?
Originally Posted by french frank
Ouch! What I am saying is that it is 2 prime-time hours every weekday, every week. Do we need the repeat, and if so, why at that time?
Originally Posted by Serial_Apologist