Page To Performance

Lowri Blake explores the history of well-known pieces of music.


0101I Got Rhythm20061226

George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm was a hit right from its first appearance in the 1930 musical Girl Crazy.

It stopped the show night after night, thanks to the vocal powerhouse that was Ethel Merman.

As well as a favourite with singers from Judy Garland to Gene Kelly, it became the basis for a host of leading jazz performers, and three years before he died Gershwin composed a suite of Variations for full orchestra.

Lowri Blake traces its history, with archive of Gershwin himself playing and talking, and contributions from singer Lorna Luft, guitarist John Etheridge, conductor Leonard Slatkin, pianist Jack Gibbons and Gershwin biographer Rodney Greenberg.

0102Prelude And Liebestod From Tristan And Isolde2007010220070106

Lowri Blake traces the story of one of the most passionate pieces of music ever written, Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from the opera Tristan and Isolde, which he described as his 'monument to love'.

0201Carmina Burana *20080722

Carl Orff's celebration of life and love has become one of the most popular pieces in the concert hall.

Lowri talks to performers, including conductor Marin Alsop, and the members of the chorus who have to get their tongues round the often raunchy Latin text.

She sets the piece in its context in Nazi Germany in 1937, when it received its first performance.

0202Delius's Cuckoo *20080729

On Hearing The First Cuckoo in Spring by Frederick Delius is considered a perfect evocation of a spring morning in England.

However, Delius composed it in France, was the son of German parents although born in Bradford, and adapted a Norwegian folk tune to provide the sublime melody that runs through the piece.

Contributors include conductor David Lloyd-Jones and composer Anthony Payne.

0203 LASTMan Of Tango * *2008080520080809

Astor Piazzolla brought the tango into the orchestral repertoire with his Bandoneon Concerto.

Lowri tells the story of the man who composed around 3,000 tangos.

Featured performers include bandoneon virtuoso Per Arne Glorvigen, who demonstrates the versatility and expressiveness of this giant among squeezeboxes.

0301Mahler's Final Adagio2011092020110924

Lowri Blake talks to young British musicians about performing Mahler's final Adagio.

Musicians talk about the challenges they face as they prepare to perform a piece from the orchestral repertoire.

In this programme Lowri Blake meets the young musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

Aged between 13 and 19 they give an insight into the musical challenges offered them by the last piece of music that the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler completed - the Adagio from his unfinished 10th symphony.

It was a piece composed at the height of a personal crisis in Mahler's life.

He had just found out that his wife was having an affair with a young architect, and he was also suffering from a heart condition that would kill him before he could complete the full symphony.

Lowri Blake talks to Edward Seckerson about this tumultuous time in the composer's life, how he sought a consultation with the up-and-coming psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, and how his passion for his wife and his despair were etched into the score.

The Adagio itself opens quietly but towards the end erupts in a huge outburst of emotion, often described as 'a cry of pain', which the young players, under the baton of their conductor Vasily Petrenko, describe as they face the demanding musical challenge.

Producer: Richard Bannerman

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

0302 LASTBilly The Kid20110927

Musicians talk about the challenges they face as they prepare to perform a piece from the orchestral repertoire.

This week it's one of American composer Aaron Copland's most lively and dramatic scores as he portrays in music the life and death of Billy The Kid.

Lowri Blake meets musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who enjoy all the challenges that this theatrical score offers.

Adding his own expertise to the programme is the Music Director and Conductor of the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra Adam Stern, an enthusiast for Copland's music.

He shows how Copland evokes the wide open spaces of the American prairie as well as the rough and tumble of life in the Wild West.

In his portrayal of a frontier town Copland uses old cowboy songs to help him weave the atmosphere, and the story leads up to a dramatic gunfight, with drums and trumpets illustrating the ricochet of shots as Billy faces the posse and they haul him off to jail.

The percussionist Alasdair Malloy describes how the bass drum, timpani and snare drum are all brought into the thick of the action during the gunfight, while violinist Eric Chapman remembers those endless vistas of his Texan childhood - a canyon, some mesquite trees, the blue sky - so powerfully summoned up by Copland in the first of the three major scores which evoked the time when American pioneers were heading West.

Producer: Richard Bannerman.

Musicians talk about performing Aaron Copland's musical portrait of Billy The Kid.