Donald Macleod's Unbelievable Spoofs

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20110318

The world of classical music is a funny old place.

Donald Macleod should know - he's been charting its every quirk for over a decade.

And along the way, he's discovered that separating the fact from the fiction is not an easy task.

In a special live edition for Comic Relief, the two intertwine as Donald plunges into the history of the musical spoof.

But who are the spoofs, and who are the unlikely musicians whose lives are so utterly absurd they can only be true?

With the help of silent film accompanist Neil Brand we meet such dubious figures as Bolognese theatre composer Lasagne Verdi, famously submitted (and nearly printed) in the music world's most trusted encyclopedia, served for good measure with an accompaniment of Pietro Gnocchi.

There's a chance to hear the music of Pietro Raimondi, the man who composed three oratorios to be performed simultaneously, centuries before Charles Ives conceived of such an adventure.

Avant-garde composers reemerge from the BBC archive too, including Hilda Tablet whose 'reinforced concrete music' found its way into the repertory of Covent Garden in the 1950s.

Plus a bizarre encounter with the man said to be a reincarnation of Merlin and Francis Bacon, variously described as a courtier, adventurer, charlatan, inventor, alchemist, pianist, violinist and amateur composer.

But did he really exist? You'll have to make up your own mind.

Donald Macleod explores the history of the musical spoof.