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BBC Concert Orchestra Celebrating 60

Celebrating 60 - Ken Bruce salutes the BBC Concert Orchestra on their 60th anniversary. This week's featured archive concert was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the late Dudley Moore. The concert was one of a series of dates he undertook with his trio and the BBC Concert Orchestra in 1992.

Moore was a musically gifted child. He learnt violin and piano from the age of 6 and his talents won him an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. Whilst at Oxford his career moved towards the stage and comedy but music was always an important part of his life.

In this concert Dudley Moore joins the orchestra as the piano soloist on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and the Andante from Mozart's Piano Concerto No 21. He talks of his roles in 10; Arthur and Santa Claus, along with his days with Peter Cook on Not Only But Also.

The orchestra performs music he wrote for two of his early films - Bedazzled and Six Weeks. Other highlights include Dudley's tribute to Tom Jones - The Green, Green Grass of Delilah; a pastiche on Colonel Bogey in the style of Beethoven; and a selection of old music hall songs set to Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor.

Hailed by Sir Arthur Bliss as "a worthy instrument, ready at hand to present a brilliant new era of 'entertainment' music'" the BBC Concert Orchestra are very much today a jewel in BBC Radio 2's crown. The BBC Concert Orchestra made its first broadcast on 11th September 1952 on the BBC General Overseas Service with a repeat broadcast on the domestic service three days later. But the story starts 20 years before when the BBC brought together a bunch of players under the title the BBC Theatre Orchestra - their main role was to provide incidental music to radio plays - under their principal conductor Leslie Woodgate.

When not required in the drama studios, the orchestra gave light music and opera concerts. In 1949 the orchestra was renamed the BBC Opera Orchestra with Stanford Robinson as conductor. Its brief was to be an "opera cum second symphony orchestra capable to putting over the finest light music to great effect". Three years later the BBC decided the time was right for a light music orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra was born.

Today, the 60 musicians who make up the BBC Concert Orchestra broadcast weekly in BBC Radio 2's Friday Night Is Music Night. They are equally at home playing Bach and Beethoven as accompanying Dame Shirley Bassey. In this 11-part series, Ken Bruce trawls the BBC Concert Orchestra archives for some classic performances from their first 60 years.

A feast for light music fans - each week the series will broadcast a show from the orchestra archives. The series will feature archive performances from the likes of light music legends Sidney Torch; Vilem Tausky; Robert Farnon; Eric Coates; Willi Boskovsky; Stanley Black; and Ron Goodwin. Plus concert performances from Matt Monro and Dudley Moore as well as more recent collaborations with Michael Bublé; Lionel Richie and Peter Gabriel.

Ken Bruce talks to the players and conductors past and present for their musical memories and tells the story of this remarkable group of BBC musicians.

Release date:

1 hour, 57 minutes

Last on

Fri 2 Mar 2012 20:00