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Samuel Barber/Emerson Quartet/West Side Story

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 20 March 2010

Tom Service marks the centenary of American composer Samuel Barber, visits the Emerson string quartet in rehearsal, discovers the Fluid Piano and speaks to the author of a new book about West Side Story.

  • West Side Story

    West Side Story

    Music Matters this week features the first ever public broadcast of a discussion recorded between four giants of 20th century American culture – the creators of West Side Story. Composer Leonard Bernstein, author Arthur Laurents, director and choreographer Jerome Robbins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim came together to discuss the work in a 1985 Dramatists Guild of America Symposium.

    Tom also talks to Nigel Simeone, whose new book on West Side Story explores the process of how the work evolved and looks at the collaboration of these four huge personalities in creating a show that has now had more than 40 000 productions in the 53 years since its premiere.

  • The Emerson Quartet

    The Emerson Quartet

    Since it’s formation in 1976 the Emerson Quartet has received critical acclaim winning nine Grammy Awards, three Gramophone Awards and the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. Their most recent grammy was for a disc of Janacek’s string quartets and they’ve just performed a series of concerts of Czech repertoire in London.

    Tom met the quartet in rehearsal at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They explain to him how their internal dynamic drives all of their work, and how they’ve sustained 32 years together in their current line-up.

    Photo: copyright Mitch Jenkins

  • Samuel Barber Centenary

    Samuel Barber Centenary

    The American composer Samuel Barber was born in Pennsylvania on the 9th March 1910. Music Matters marks the centenary of his birth with thoughts from the archive from fellow composers Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Gian Carlo Menotti who was also Barber’s partner and librettist, and John Adams. Transcripts of the archive interviews are contained in a new book – ‘Samuel Barber Remembered: A Centenary Tribute’.

    Tom talks to composer Jennifer Higdon who now teaches at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (Barber’s alma mater) about how his music inspires her to compose with her own voice.

  • Fluid Piano

    Fluid Piano

    Dulcimer virtuoso and design innovator Geoff Smith has created a new instrument – the Fluid Piano, an acoustic instrument with a difference. The pitch of each note can be changed whilst being played, meaning the piano is no longer restricted to the equal temperament of the Western scale.

    Tom talks to Geoff at the keyboard of this unique instrument and hears about this quiet revolution in musical culture.

    Photo: Pianist Pam Chowhan plays the fluid piano.


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