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Key Matters

Series 1 Episode 5: E Flat Major

Ivan Hewett explores the emotional characteristics of the musical key of E flat major.

Ivan Hewett examines the distinct characteristics of five different musical keys. Today, he looks at E flat major, as used by Beethoven, Mozart and John Allen.

Ivan Hewett explores how different musical keys seem to have distinct characteristics and create specific moods.

He looks at the key E flat major.

The Early Music Show

Wagner 200: Mastersingers of Nuremberg

Lucie Skeaping looks at the real lives of the Mastersingers immortalised by Wagner.

Lucie Skeaping looks back on the life and music of the real Hans Sachs and his fellow Mastersingers in 16th-century Germany, who were immortalised in Wagner's famous opera.

Immortalised by Wagner in his famous opera, Lucie Skeaping looks back on the life and music of the real Hans Sachs and his fellow Mastersingers in 16th Century Germany.

First broadcast in March 2007.

The Early Music Show

Acis and Galatea

Lucie Skeaping explores Acis and Galatea, one of Handel's most popular works.

Acis and Galatea: Lucie Skeaping explores one of Handel's most popular works. With excerpts from recordings conducted by Trevor Pinnock, John Eliot Gardiner and Adrian Boult.

Lucie Skeaping looks in detail at one of Handel's most popular and enduring works: Acis & Galatea. With extracts from recordings by Trevor Pinnock, John Eliot Gardiner and Adrian Boult, among others.

The Early Music Show

11th-Century Fraud: Ademar's Apostolic Mass

Exploring the extraordinary story of 11th-century French monk Ademar de Chabannes.

Lucie Skeaping explores the extraordinary story of the earliest-known medieval composer for whom a compositional autograph survives: Ademar de Chabannes and his Mass for St Martial.

Lucie Skeaping explores the extraordinary story behind the earliest known medieval composer for whom a compositional autograph survives: Adémar de Chabannes and his 11th Century Mass for St Martial.

Norman Lebrecht meets celebrated American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

Norman Lebrecht meets US mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, one of the world's great Rossini interpreters. She talks about her early life in Kansas and boucing back from rejections.

Norman Lebrecht meets the acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. The sixth child of an Irish Catholic family in Prairie Village, Kansas, she married young and was almost thirty before anyone was prepared to back her talent. In the decade since then, she has taken on mezzo roles in Rossini and Handel with a wide-eyed zest that audiences find irresistible, and an openness that appears to be innate. The very model of a 21st-century communicator, Joyce DiDonato writes a chatty blog and decorates it with photographs that she snaps wherever she goes. She tells Norman Lebrecht about her early life in Kansas, her studies in Philadelphia and Houston, and how she bounced back from a string of rejections to become one of the world's great operatic stars.

The Early Music Show

Harmonic Inspiration: Vivaldi's "L'Estro Armonico"

Lucie Skeaping explores Vivaldi's collection of violin concertos L'Estro Armonico, Op 3.

Harmonic Inspiration: Lucie Skeaping explores Vivaldi's ground-breaking set of concertos for one, two or four violins entitled L'Estro Armonico.

Lucie Skeaping looks at Vivaldi's groundbreaking Op.3 set of concertos for one, two or four violins entitled "L'Estro Armonico", which were published 300 years ago.

Vivaldi had them published in Amsterdam, which meant they were readily available throughout northern Europe. The 8 partbooks even landed on the desk of JS Bach, who found them so inspirational he set about making transcriptions of some of them for keyboard instruments.

We'll hear some of Vivaldi's concertos in recordings by The English Concert and I Musici, as well as one of Bach's transcriptions - the Concerto for 4 Harpsichords in a performance by Bach Collegium Stuttgart conducted by Helmuth Rilling.

The Early Music Show

Performer Profile: Gustav Leonhardt

Catherine Bott in conversation with an Early music pioneer, the late Gustav Leonhardt.

Catherine Bott in conversation with the late Gustav Leonhardt: keyboardist, conductor, musicologist and teacher, who was one of the great pioneers of Early music.

Catherine Bott in conversation with the late Gustav Leonhardt: keyboardist, conductor, musicologist and teacher, who was one of the great pioneers of Early music.

With great sadness, we learn of the death of Gustav Leonhardt on 16th January. In a change to the schedule, we repeat an interview that Catherine Bott recorded with him last year about his life in music, his great love of Bach and about a variety of Early music issues whilst featuring some of his many recordings, including music by JS Bach, Louis Couperin, and Sweelinck. This is the last interview that Gustav Leonhardt gave to the BBC.

The Early Music Show

Princess Maria Barbara

A profile of Maria Barbara, Portuguese infanta and Spanish queen and music she inspired.

Catherine Bott presents a profile of Maria Barbara, the Portuguese infanta and Spanish queen, and the muse of Domenico Scarlatti, on the 300th anniversary of her birth.

A profile of Maria Bárbara, the Portuguese Infanta and Spanish Queen, and the muse of Domenico Scarlatti, on the 300th anniversary of her birth.

Catherine Bott looks back on the life of one Europe's most musically talented royal figures, the inspirational Maria Madalena Bárbara Xavier Leonor Teresa Antónia Josefa (4 December 1711 - 27 August 1758), whose gifts as a keyboard player and great love for music inspired Domenico Scarlatti to devote the best part of his life serving her and prompted him to compose at least 550 sonatas for her to play.

Maria Bárbara's name often appears alongside Scarlatti's when talking about his music, but little is usually said about her, her court and her times. Catherine Bott takes the three hundredth anniversary of her birth to review the Scarlatti story from a different perspective.

The Early Music Show

Cathedral Life

Catherine Bott considers what life was like in a cathedral choir in the late 16th century.

Catherine Bott visits Lincoln to explore what it would have been like to be in a cathedral choir in the days of the 'Father of English Music' William Byrd.

Catherine Bott visits Lincoln to explore what it would have been like to be in a cathedral choir in the days of the "Father of English Music" William Byrd. Was the life of a 16th-century chorister so different to that of a 21st-century one?

Discovering Music

Ravel: La valse

Stephen Johnson on the dark underbelly of Ravel's ode to the Viennese waltz, La valse.

Stephen Johnson explores the roots of the waltz - from rustic German dances to sinister, dizzy treatments by Schumann and Mahler - before focusing on Ravel's La valse.

We think of the waltz as the apotheosis of elegance, refinement, high society. But it wasn't always so...

In today's "Discovering Music", Stephen Johnson explores the roots of the waltz - from rustic German dances, to sinister, dizzy treatments by Schumann and Mahler - before looking in-depth at "La Valse" by Maurice Ravel. Ravel was fascinated by the history and cultural trappings of the waltz form - as well as its dark underbelly...and his "choreographic poem" for orchestra is a dazzling evocation of gliding dancers warped and transmuted into something rather more sinister...

The Early Music Show

Clemens non Papa

Lucie Skeaping explores the life and music of the Flemish composer Clemens non Papa.

Lucie Skeaping explores the life and music of the intriguingly named Jacobus Clemens non Papa - one of the most successful Flemish composers of the 16th century.

Lucie Skeaping explores the music of the 16th century Flemish composer Jacobus Clemens non Papa. In the hierarchy of the Flemish school, you could say that Clemens was of the fourth generation - if Dufay is taken as the first, Ockeghem as the second, Josquin the third, with Orlando di Lassus still to come. He was one of the few successful Flemish musicians not to travel to Italy, he spent his entire life in Flanders, working in towns such as Bruges, Dordrecht and Ypres. Also unlike most other composers of that period, Clemens non Papa seems never to have been employed by the church - at least not on a permanent basis.

It's unclear as to how Jacobus Clemens came to adopt the epithet "non Papa" - in fact, it has been the subject of much conjecture. The most widely accepted version is that it meant "not the Pope" Clement - presumably because Pope Clement VII was in the Vatican at the time. Pope Clement VII died in 1534, though, so it's possible that he may have been given the nickname in childhood and it simply stuck with him for the rest of his life! Certainly, the Antwerp-based publisher Tielman Susato, with whom he had a lucrative business partnership, seemed to find the papal suffix amusing! His name is much less well known now, but in the late 1500s, Clemens non Papa was one of the most frequently published composers of the time.

The Early Music Show

Scarlatti and Corelli: Music for a Bourbon

Exploring the music and entertainments put on for Philip V of Spain in Naples in 1702.

Catherine Bott explores the stories surrounding the music and entertainments put on for the occasion of Philip V of Spain's visit to Naples in 1702.

In 1702, the 19-year-old Philip V of Spain came from his native France to Naples for a month. For this occasion, the Neopolitan based composer Alessandro Scarlatti was joined by the other great Italian composer of the day, Arcangelo Corelli, with mixed results! On the 350th anniversary of Scarlatti's birth, Catherine Bott explores the stories that surround the music and entertainments put on for this occasion.

The Early Music Show

King George III - Mad about Music Episode 1

Catherine Bott traces the legacy of King George III. Featuring Handel, JC Bach and Mozart.

Catherine Bott traces the legacy of the cultural patronage of King George III, presenting music by Handel, JC Bach and Mozart.

King George III is widely remembered as the British monarch who suffered a temporary, debilitating period of "madness" as depicted in the play and film by Alan Bennett, "The Madness of King George", but he was also a highly cultured man; he and his Queen Consort were passionate supporters of the arts and both loved music. In the first of two programmes, Catherine Bott begins a virtual tour of London to trace the legacy of George's artistic patronage through his reign. Featuring music from Handel, JC Bach and Mozart.

The Early Music Show

King George III - Mad about Music Episode 2

Catherine Bott traces the legacy of King George III. Music by Handel, Purcell, Steffani.

Catherine Bott explores the legacy of King George III's artistic patronage, presenting music by Handel, Purcell and Steffani.

King George III is now often remembered only as "the mad King", but he and his Queen Consort were passionate supporters of the arts and both loved music. In the second of two programmes, Catherine Bott continues her virtual tour of London, tracing the legacy of George's artistic patronage through his reign. Featuring music from Handel, Purcell and Steffani.

Discovering Music

Szymanowski: Symphony No. 3

Stephen Johnson explores the inner world of Szymanowski's Symphony No 3.

Stephen Johnson explores Szymanowski's Symphony No 3, which is a setting of the second Divan, Song of the Night, by Rumi and marks a high point in his impressionistic style.

Setting the second Divan, Song of the Night, by the thirteenth-century mystical poet Rumi, Szymanowski's Symphony no.3 marks a high point in the composer's Impressionistic style. Forging a link between western musical language and oriental beliefs in those worlds which lie beyond our physically and emotionally conditioned lives, Szymanowski realised that this work for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra, had surpassed his previous compositions. Once the work was complete, Szymanowski commented that "not even a musician like myself can have any idea of what it will sound like with an orchestra." The work has been described by composer Sorabji, as music that is permeated with the very essence of the choicest and rarest specimens of Iranian art...like a Persian painting or silk rug.

The Lebrecht Interview

Stephen Kovacevich

American pianist Stephen Kovacevich talks to Norman Lebrecht about his career.

American pianist Stephen Kovacevich talks to Norman Lebrecht about his career, his move to England, his studies with Myra Hess and the musicians and composers he admires.

Norman Lebrecht talks to the American born pianist Stephen Kovacevich in the year of his 70th birthday.

Originally from Los Angeles, Kovacevich's father was Croatian and his mother American. After studying with the Russian pianist Lev Schorr he won a scholarship which brought him to London where he met and studied with Dame Myra Hess. She helped him develop the sound he made at the keyboard. In 1961 he hired the Wigmore Hall and made an acclaimed debut in music by Berg, Bach and Beethoven: the Diabelli Variations. This was the real start of his career in public which continues to this day.

His recordings date back to the 1960s when he made acclaimed concerto recordings of the Beethoven and Bartok Concertos with Colin Davis and of Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Jacqueline Du Pre, both artists he admires greatly. More recently his latest recording of the Diabelli Variations has garnered praise.

He has mainly confined himself to the great Classical pianist composers, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms with occasional forays into the twentieth century though he's never played the music of Rachmaninov in public, the pianist he most admires.

Throughout his playing life Kovacevich has suffered badly from nerves and he talks frankly about this and the way his more recent conducting career has helped him to deal with them.

Producer Tony Cheevers.

Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to conductor Valery Gergiev.

Norman Lebrecht talks to conductor Valery Gergiev, head of the Kirov Mariinsky Theatre, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the World Orchestra for Peace.

Norman Lebrecht meets the conductor Valery Gergiev, head of the Kirov Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the World Orchestra for Peace. Gergiev also runs festivals in Russia, Holland, Israel and around the Baltic, and was recently charged with re-launching the historic Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and St Petersburg. Undoubtedly one of the busiest musicians on the planet, Gergiev has been criticised for skimping on rehearsal and detail; he has also been accused of having too intimate a relationship with Russian power.

In this extended and wide-ranging interview recorded at Gergiev's Festival in Mikkeli, Finland, Gergiev tells Norman about his childhood in Ossetia and his reaction to the death of his father when he was just 14; his own very special method of fund-raising; his controversial relationship with Vladimir Putin; and just what drives him to live life at his famously frenetic pace.

Producer Emma Bloxham.

The Early Music Show

King Joao IV of Portugal

Catherine Bott talks to Owen Rees about the musical legacy of King Joao IV of Portugal.

Catherine Bott talks to Owen Rees about the musical legacy of King Joao IV of Portugal. He was an accomplished composer and had the biggest music library in Europe.

Catherine Bott talks to Owen Rees about the musical legacy of King Joao IV of Portugal and the so-called Golden Age of Portuguese polyphony. In 1578, the young king of Portugal, Sebastian led an ill-considered crusade against the Moors of Morocco. He was routed at the battle of Alcazar-Quivir and disappeared without trace, leaving his succession and the fate of his nation on a knife-edge. Of the six claimants to the Portuguese monarchy, the most powerful was Philip II of Spain, whose invading army conquered the country in 1581. Neither Philip nor his two successors acknowledged Portugal's cultural or ethnic independence and treated her as nothing more than a province of Spain. Portugal's considerable foreign revenue enriched the Spanish treasury, while her dominance in trade and sea power was successfully challenged by the English and the Dutch, thus loosening her grip on her colonies in Africa, Asia and South America. This period of external domination and subsequent economic decline lasted for nearly 60 years until the Portuguese nobility reached the end of its tether and led a revolt against their oppressors in 1640, as a result of which, the Duke of Braganza was declared the new and rightful king of Portugal and the Algarves. One of King Joao IV's first actions was to lead his countrymen in a protracted war of restoration against the Spanish, whose armies were finally driven out of Portuguese lands after four more years of fierce fighting. Joao o Restaurador - John the Restorer - was not just a successful troop-leader, though. He was also a generous supporter of the arts, and a considerably talented musician and composer himself. And, by the time of his death in 1656 he had amassed the biggest music library in the world.

The Lebrecht Interview

Richard Rodney Bennett

Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to composer Richard Rodney Bennett.

Music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to composer Richard Rodney Bennett about his career, which has embraced working in film scores, studies with Boulez and playing the piano.

Richard Rodney Bennett is a contemporary of Birtwistle and Maxwell Davies but his musical life has pursued a very different path. From his childhood onwards music was there for him. His mother was a pupil of Holst while his father wrote children's books and ballad lyrics. But his frailty meant that the young Richard was sent to boarding school, so he hardly knew him. Bennett's musical mind was inquisitive from the start and after reading about her he approached the composer Elisabeth Lutyens for lessons. She invigorated him further. Soon after he went to the Royal Academy of Music but this didn't give him the stimulus he needed although it was there that he met one of his best friends Cornelius Cardew. Together they wanted to find out about the new music which was being written in the 1940s and 50s.

For a while he was the only pupil of Pierre Boulez, and with Cardew he visited Darmstadt in Germany where the new music supremos of the era met and had their works performed. His prowess as a pianist meant he was called upon to play some of the more challenging music by Boulez, Stockhausen and others. But in parallel with this he was writing film scores and continuing to play jazz with friends. So already at the age of twenty his musical life was eclectic to say the least. In the late 50s and 60s his compositional career burgeoned with commissions and performances all over the world. His film scores included Far from the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and Murder on the Orient Express all of which earned him Oscar nominations.

In 1979 after the breakdown of a love affair and with the pressure of responsibilities in the music world proving too much, Bennett moved to New York where he has lived ever since.Now 75 Bennett enjoys his life spent between New York and London, singing with his regular collaborator Clare Martin.

In conversation with Norman Lebrecht Richard Rodney Bennett talks frankly about his life, his reasons for the different musical directions he has taken and why he no longer composes nor is interested in new music.

Producer Tony Cheevers.

The Early Music Show

Opera Profiles Episode 9: Rameau - Platee

Lucie Skeaping delves into Rameau's comic masterpiece Platee.

Lucie Skeaping delves into Rameau's comic masterpiece Platee. A colourful work, it turned many of the operatic conventions of the 18th century on their head.

Lucie Skeaping looks at Jean Philippe Rameau's comic masterpiece, the baroque opera Platée.

Rameau wrote the opera when he was in his sixties, for an entertainment at a court wedding at Versailles. The story tells of a foolish and ugly nymph who believes she is loved by Jupiter. The sense of the absurd permeates Rameau's score, with the composer and his librettist managing to create a wonderfully imaginative and colourful piece which turn many of the operatic conventions of the time on their head.

Rameau's contemporary, Melchior Grimm, considered the piece "sublime" while for Jean Jacques Rousseau it was a "divine" work. Even today it succeeds in firing the imaginations of opera producers and conductors, not least the French conductor Marc Minkowski, who explains why in the programme.

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