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Behind the scenes for Schubert online

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 15:11 UK Time, Friday, 30 March 2012


Photo of Richard Leeming


Richard Leeming, executive producer, syndication at BBC Audio & Music, took on the role of senior producer for Radio 3's Spirit of Schubert season. Here, Richard looks at the background to some of the features.

All this week Radio 3 has been celebrating the life and work of Franz Schubert, when working out how to reflect The Spirit of Schubert season on the Radio 3 website, we decided to go one further and actually bring the man to life.

Resurrecting Franz Schubert in the shape of the twitter account @franzisunwell  has been one of the highlights of a brilliant creative challenge, taking Radio 3’s broadcast output and using interactive technologies to allow listeners easier access to what was being played on air.

Making sense of Schubert’s enormous body of work was a key theme for the season. To put his work in context and pick out the highlights, Radio 3 asked some of the world’s leading Schubert scholars to recommend their key works. These choices would necessarily be spread throughout the broadcast schedule, so the most important task for the Radio 3 website was to collect all of these works and allow people to listen to them in one convenient place.

So if you haven’t been able to listen to all of each episode of In Tune, you can now hear all of Graham Johnson’s brilliant reinterpretations of Schubert’s Lieder in one convenient place.

Missed one of Alfred Brendel’s piano sonata choices? (and some of them were broadcast in the middle of the night!). They’re all here.

We also decided that some of the output was so engaging and editorially demanding that we should make a real feature of it by filming it. Three times a day Tom Service has donned a white coat and entered The Schubert Lab. Each one has been filmed so you can catch up with any you may have missed.

Filming parts of the broadcast output has been particularly successful for some of the intimate late night performances like the Kit Downes Trio’s interpretation of Schubert's Auf dem Wasser zu Singen. This looks beautiful on You Tube.

Meanwhile every part of the BBC has an ongoing duty to try and reach new audiences, so we decided to use the season to experiment with some social media platforms, which also enabled us to take a really entertaining - while always respectful - approach.

So while @franzisunwell has playfully congratulated Professor Newbould on completing his unfinished symphony, and commiserated with Beethoven on the anniversary of his death, there was also a serious point: we’ve used the tweets to illustrate the little that is known about Schubert and add context to the music being played on air.

We also created a lively Tumblr blog to work as a digital scrapbook where we could collate relevant and amusing photos, clips and articles, again giving our audience a different perspective on Schubert.

So we hope that you’ve found our digital output to be a useful complement to the fantastic music played on air.

  • Visit the Schubert One-Stop-Shop for comprehensive click-through links to Radio 3's online and broadcast content.


Portrait of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)



  • Comment number 1.

    I'm interested to see that a number of other people have expressed negative feelings about the Schubert Marathon. I'm a great admirer of Schubert's music - but a selective one; like most (all?) composers not all of his music shows him at his best. For Radio 3 to devote eight consecutive days to Schubert and nothing else is excessive. Can such over-exposure really benefit his music? And, like food, isn't it best taken as part of a balanced diet? In addition, I'm afraid I rather resent someone ordaining that whenever I listen to a radio station I will hear nothing but one composer for days on end. A long weekend of celebration of Schubert would have been fine: eight days is overkill. PLease let's have no more of these one-composer marathons. Despite my love of Schubert I've scarcely listened to Radio 3 in the last week. I'll return when normal service is resumed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done R3! Another really inspiring composer festival. Revelatory, educational, eye-opening and a highlight of 2012 which none of other events of the cultural olympiad are lilkely to match. To Mr John Quinn: if you want to only hear music that shows a composer at his best (I rather resent your offensive terminology) you can always tune in to carsick fm - I hear they only play the best bits so you should be happy there. Meanwhile the rest of us who want a little bit more depth, context and understanding with our music remain utterly in debt to everyone (R3 staff and musicians alike) who made this magnificent week long Schubertiade possible.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thank goodness the Schubert marathon is over! I like Schubert, but as with most things, in moderation.. To have a whole week, with EVERY programme devoted to the same Composer, does after a few days become, even to a lover of the Composer, a bit much to take. Luckily I was forwarned of what was to come, and decided to revisit my old love, Radio 4. What a glorious week I have had, and will from now on, be much more selective in my listening of Radio 3. I don't know who thought up the idea to broadcast such Marathon listenings, (it's been done before), but are they not familiar with the old saying, "you can have too much of a good thing". It is SO true..

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree, what a relief the Schubert Experience is over! I work from home and Radio 3 is on most of the day. I love Schubert's music but 8 days... And it wasn't 200 hours of music, as advertised. I guess at least 30% of those hours were voice. Some explanation or background to the composer was fine but it became so dominant, I kept turning the radio off. As for the repetitive voice-over 'The Spirit of Schubert', seemingly every half hour, that was really irritating. The whole approach to Schubert reflects the current trend in Radio 3 of increasing the ratio of voice to music across all the programmes. If I want voice, I listen to Radio 4. Music, please, and cut the chat.

  • Comment number 5.

    Not over keen on Schubert, I must admit.

    These composerthons in general are a bad idea (in common with any form of 'thon). Do not do it again!!! Glad to get back to normality on R3.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've loved the Schubert Experience - what a wonderful week of broadcasting! The Open University features a lot of Schubert in its music modules and it has been fascinating to listen to The Schubert Lab, in particular, and learn more each day. I'm sad it's all over - well done to Radio 3 for such an enjoyable week.

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't tell you how heartened I am by Mr Quinn's comments and how relieved I am to be over the Schubert Experience. I echo Mr Quinn's views. I am happy to hear Schubert's music played regularly as part of a wide variety of classical music - a variety for which Radio 3 is justly renowned - but not back-to-back for days on end.

  • Comment number 8.

    Fully support Mr Quinn. Am struggling after reading his post twice to find anything that could be remotely classed as 'offensive'. A week dedicated to a single composer is wrong and misguided. Having worked in the 'creative milieu' I am all too aware of how these 'brilliant' ideas develop a life of their own and all sense of proportion and reality gets thrown out of the window.

  • Comment number 9.

    So far, then, it's For 2, Against 5 here.

    (I won't add my vote as it would be like kicking a man when he's down.)

    My sense is that a great deal of thought and effort went into it; there were some very good programmes; there was some thoroughly duff content; that these composerthons are more concerned with creating 'impact', particularly on the outside world; that Radio 3 has been well and truly taken over by the admen in an attempt to brainwash people that this was an unalloyed success, praising the content, praising each other, exuding excitement and enthusiasm and studiously ignoring a level of dissatisfaction which any commercial firm would be concerned about.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ah, French Frank, but you are making the assumption that the management of BBC Radio 3 actually care about any dissenting voices. Emperor's Clothes is more pertinent.

  • Comment number 11.

    >> you are making the assumption that the management of BBC Radio 3 actually care about any dissenting voices

    I know very well that far from caring about dissenting voices, they just shout them down.

    The BBC has, for all its broadcast services, four measurements of Public Value ('drivers' of Public Value, they call them, corporate jargon which which suggests a load of hot air).

    The four 'drivers' are Reach, Quality, Impact, Value for money.

    In terms of the pros and cons of the Schubertathon, Impact is the aim: how many people 'out there' notice it's going on, how many column inches in the media. It's clear that a 9-day event, backed up with all the forces of R3's Facebook, Twitter and press office, will have more Impact than a once-a-week series focused on Schubert's Lieder and their poetic sources or his symphonies or his chamber works or the fragments, expertly presented by specialists and nary a phone-in, celebrity or dedication anywhere. That would have small Impact and therefore doesn't add to Public Value - says the BBC.

    Public Value is therefore measured in terms of successful publicity (like the Sony Radio Awards). Reach is no more than how many people listen - and Radio 3 doesn't have enough listeners so it's chasing the 'broader public'. Quality (like Beauty) is a perception of the individual and the 'broad public' outnumbers/outvotes the dissenting minority enthusiasts; Impact is successful advertising; and Value for money is calculated on the basis of the cost of the service v. the number of listeners - or audience size again.

    As for cultural value, the BBC seems to have difficulty with the concept.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thank you for your superlative Schubert programming last week. I would be pleased if you could answer this question, or forward it to Graham Johnson, who may know.

    The tune of Schubert's lieder Die Knabenzeit, D400 (composed in 1816) closely resembles that of Mozart's Annio-Servilia duet "Ah Perdona il Primio Affetto" in La Clemenza di Tito (composed in 1791). Deliberate and acknowledged by Schubert, or what? Both are lovely and striking.

    What may constitute an explanation, if I could understand it, is part of a note Mr Johnson has written to accompany his Hyperion recording of D400 with singing by Christoph Pregardien. He says:

    "The autograph appends a different vocal line for the first four bars. In the Gesamtausgabe, Mandyczewski treated this as an alternative, which he printed in the Revsionbericht; but the second Deutsch catalogue prints it as Schubert's preference. We have chosen to record the Gesamtausgabe version."

    I look forward to whatever answer you can provide.

    Nathan Silver

  • Comment number 13.

    Enjoyed the whole Schubert season. Thanks.


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