Thursday 29 March 2012

Aah Schubert...

What with one thing and another - life, work, my late-Lent immersion in the St Matthew Passion - I haven't heard as much as I'd like of Radio 3's Spirit of Schubert season - his complete works across the entire schedule for eight and a half days. But it's been a joy to find Schubert there every time I tune to Radio 3, and once or twice I've fallen asleep to Schubert and woken in the morning to more Schubert, surely to the great benefit of my soul.
In my musically formative years, such a project would have seemed outlandish, as Schubert occupied a place a long way down the evolutionary ladder from the great, universally worshipped Beethoven. And, as it happened, when Radio 3 first scheduled a continuous broadcast of one composer's complete works, in 2005, it was Ludwig Van that they chose, launching (with some trepidation) the six-day Beethoven Experience. It proved an unexpectedly massive hit, emboldening Radio 3 to do it again in the same year, this time with Bach: A Bach Christmas filled ten days of the run-up to Christmas with the complete works of Bach. After that, in 2007, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky got the treatment. Then, belatedly, came Mozart, across the first ten days of 2011. And now we have the Spirit of Schubert, which comes to a glorious end on Saturday night with a concert of his last works, including the sublime C Major Quintet and B Flat Sonata...
The question is: Who should be next for this immersive, completist treatment? My own suggestion would be Purcell, who's been well served in the past by Radio 3 (especially in his anniversary years, with a Purcell Weekend in 2009) but he was certainly prolific enough - and great enough - to qualify, and his music is still too little known and appreciated (by me indeed, until quite recently). Any more ideas?


  1. Agree with Purcell, Nige - though his music is at last becoming better known. Mahler seems to be all over the place, particularly after last year's centenary of his death. I would go for the great Finn Jean Sibelius, for me, the greatest symphonist of the last century, his single movement last symphony, a masterpiece which distills all his renowned concentration into just 20 minutes

  2. Excellent idea, Mahlerman - I'd like to know more Sibelius...

  3. I think that the one thing I miss most from the UK, even more than Lucozade, is Radio 3. There is nothing like it here and I doubt anywhere else either.

    My vote is certainly for Purcell too. I'd also like to propose Shostakovich. Although I'm without Radio 3 as my 'finger on the pulse' it does seem from here that his stock has fallen undeservedly of late.

  4. I agree, Mahlerman. The first time I heard the second symphony I was, for a few seconds at the start, convinced my hi-fi had developed a serious wobble. Those unison strings threw me completely; now I just listen beguiled by the beauty of that unique musical idea.
    So yes, let it be Sibelius, and if not Sibelius then Shostakovich. And Ralph Vaughan Williams - it must be an anniversary of something or other to do with the greatest cowpattian of them all.

  5. Oh yes, Vaughan Williams would be brilliant. Still under-appreciated, I think...

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