• Show TV Channels

    Hide TV Channels

  • Show Radio Channels

    Hide Radio Channels

  • Show Years

    Hide Years

  • Issues

Close group

Close group

Day Navigation


: A Ballad Concert

Here is some of the oldest of all instrumental music. Four hundred years ago, almost the only cultivated music was for voices. By the sixteenth century, however, composers had begun to write for instruments. Naturally. the style was at first a good deal like that of the vocal music, for the special capabilities of instruments had all to be discovered.

But English composers (who were pioneers in the field) almost at once began to find out how to write effectively for the Keyboard instrument of the day, the Virginals, and for the Stringed instruments, the Viols.

In listening to these pieces imagine the tiny tone of the Virginals, in which the strings (at a tension far less than that of a present-day Piano) were plucked by a quill.

One of the commonest forms in which composers then wrote was that of Variations-taking a popular tune and decorating it with lively runs and diversified rhythms, keeping the melody's outlines clear, and not much varying the original harmonies.

We shall see that style in several of these pieces. Some of the tunes we arc to hear were used over and over again by different composers ; The Woods so wilde was an extremely popular tune, on which several sets of Variations were written-notably by Byrd and Gibbons.

The Packington mentioned in the title of the second piece is supposed to be one Sir John of that name - 'lusty Packington' as he was called, who once wagered £3,000 that he would swim from Whitehall Stairs to Greenwich. But Queen Elizabeth, who, as one commentator says, 'had a particular tenderness for handsome fellows,' would not let him try the feat.

Giles Farnabye is a very attractive figure, for his music has more romantic feeling in it than that of almost any other writer of his time.

Debussy had a great gift for expressing the musical counterparts of moods and emotions. The great majority of his pieces are musical pictures' bearing definite titles.

His picture of the hills of Anacapri, near Naples, glows with the light and warmth of the Italian sun. We hear suggestions of the gay Tarantella dance and of a popular love-ditty.

The Snow is Dancing (from the Children's Corner Suite) suggests very beautifully the children's fanciful idea about the snowflakes and their merry dance to earth.

Puck's Dance is the airiest, daintiest piece, in perfect harmony with the sprite of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read the opening of Act II before listening to this piece.

In The Island of Happiness we may imagine a pleasure-party depicted in the style of Watteau. It will be noted, in this and the other pieces, how many different varieties of tone colour are used, and how the Composer thus uses the pianoforte, in a sense, orchestrally.


Mr. JAMES GORMAN, an appeal on behalf of Honshaw's Institution for the Blind.

About this project

This site contains the BBC listings information which the BBC printed in Radio Times between 1923 and 2009. You can search the site for BBC programmes, people, dates and Radio Times editions.

We hope it helps you find information about that long forgotten BBC programme, research a particular person or browse your own involvement with the BBC.

Through the listings, you will also be able to use the Genome search function to find thousands of radio and TV programmes that are already available to view or listen to on the BBC website.

There are more than 5 million programme listings in Genome. This is a historical record of the planned output and the BBC services of any given time. It should be viewed in this context and with the understanding that it reflects the attitudes and standards of its time - not those of today.

To read scans of the Radio Times magazines from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, you can navigate by issue.

Welcome to BBC Genome

Genome is a digitised version of the Radio Times from 1923 to 2009 and is made available for internal research purposes only. You will need to obtain the relevant third party permissions for any use, including use in programmes, online etc.

This internal version of Genome, which includes all the magazine covers, images and articles as well as the programme listings from the Radio Times, is different to the version of BBC Genome that is available externally/to the public. It is only available inside the BBC network.

Your use of this version of Genome is covered by the BBC Acceptable Use of Information Systems Policy and these terms.

BBC Guidance

This historical record contains material which some might find offensive
Continue Cancel