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Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) - 5. Nothing is More Useless Than Old Music
Image for 22/11/2008

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45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 22 November 2008

Tom Service discusses the collaborative process with actress Fiona Shaw as she makes her directorial debut in the opera world in charge of a new production of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea.

With the latest Streetwise Opera project, My Secret Heart, bringing together the homeless with professional opera through Allegri's Miserere, and an interview with leading young German composer Jorg Widmann.

Plus a look back at the history of the London Sinfonietta, reflecting on the progress made in new music since its establishment 40 years ago.

  • Riders to the Sea

    Vaughan Williams’ opera, based on John Millington Synge’s play, is one of the seminal works of early 20th century Irish theatre. It tells the story of the loss of all the menfolk in a family, who are gripping on to a precarious life on the Aran Islands. At around 40 minutes long, the work is a problem for opera houses, but English National Opera have taken on the challenge of staging the piece with a prelude of Sibelius’s tone-poem, Luonnotar. Tom visits ENO’s rehearsal space in north-west London and talks to actress Fiona Shaw, making her directorial debut in the opera house, designers Tom Pye and Dorothy Cross, and the late Richard Hickox.

    Riders to the Sea is at the London Coliseum from 27-30th November
  • Jörg Widmann

    At 35, German composer Jörg Widmann has already built up an impressive catalogue of orchestral works, operas, and chamber pieces. He’s touted as one of the most important composers of his generation in Germany, but in Britain his music is less-well known. Concerts at the Wigmore Hall over the next few months will feature all five of his string quartets, and there is also the chance to hear Widmann in his other professional guise, as a virtuoso clarinettist.

    The first of the Wigmore Hall concerts featuring Jörg Widmann’s music is on Wednesday 3rd December
  • London Sinfonietta at 40

    For the last four decades the London Sinfonietta has represented the cutting edge of new music, and supported generations of British composers. And the ensemble has not been resting on its laurels – the players have collaborated with visual artists, pop and folk musicians, and electronic experimentalists, making sure their work is still truly contemporary.

    Harrison Birtwistle reflects on his long association with the Sinfonietta, and from the BBC archives we hear from conductor David Atherton, one of the Sinfonietta’s founders, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. And current chief executive Andrew Burke, pianist John Constable, and principal violinist Clio Gould, share their thoughts about past and future.

    Tom also talks to a panel of experts – writer and broadcaster Ivan Hewett, composer Richard Baker and Gillian Moore, Head of Contemporary Culture at the Southbank Centre – to assess the place of the London Sinfonietta in new music today.

    The London Sinfonietta at 40 is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on Tuesday 2nd December
  • Streetwise Opera

    Every year since 2002, Streetwise Opera has created a new music-theatre piece, working with homeless and ex-homeless communities up and down the country. This year sees their most ambitious project yet – based on Allegri’s Miserere, My Secret Heart uses around 80 participants from 10 regional centres, and features music by electronic artist Mira Calix and visuals from Flat-e. Screens, speakers and singers will come together in the Royal Festival Hall before the installation tours round the world. From the Crisis centre in East London, participants in the project share their experiences, and Tom talks to Mira Calix and Matthew Peacock, Streetwise’s founder.

    My Secret Heart is in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday 3rd December


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