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Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky Listeners' Diary - 9 February 2007

Two Radio 3 listeners are keeping an online diary throughout The Tchaikovsky Experience.

Paul Beecham
Paul Beecham So, only one day to go until we start to immerse ourselves in a blanket of Tchaikovsky’s and Stravinsky’s music, much as we were enveloped by the snow yesterday.

Rosalind has already got us started with her feelings of anticipation with what we have in store so what can I add to that?

My approach to this is very much one of a voyage of discovery. We all have our favourites which it's very easy to fall back on. I attend many concerts and although one of the chief attractions of the Proms programming is its huge variety and range even within individual evenings, I think we seldom really challenge ourselves to select repertoire a long way outside our knowledge and enjoyment range.

Consequently I’m really looking forward to finding things I would never have dreamed of seeking out and hope to make some new friends that will stay with me well into the future. Perhaps those of you who have already experienced this in the past will be able to provide signposts along the way so we can all look out for the particular treasures.

I have quite a taste for the unusual so there are some things that have caught my eye already, such as the arrangement of The Rite of Spring for four hands on piano (Friday 0700) and also the complete Les Noces on pianola (though that is at 3.37am on Tuesday the 13th so will have to be on listen again). I have a particular interest in pianola performances I as had a partner with one which we made great use of and built up a great library of music. The best arrangement for performances was a warm summer’s evening with me playing indoors, all the windows wide open and everyone sitting outside in the garden holding a glass of wine listening as the sound wafted over them.

So not only unusual arrangements of pieces but also different interpreters of favourites are of great interest. One of the highlights of last season’s Proms was the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer playing The Rite of Spring. It was wonderful. So I shall be looking forward to hearing Stravinsky conducting Tchaikovsky and also Yuri Temirkanov in action.

Do I have a top ten? I don’t really think so, but I’m as eagerly anticipating the Stravinsky vocal works I have already sung and much enjoyed, such as the lovely Symphony of Psalms and the very spare Ave Maria, as I’m hoping to discover choral works by Tchaikovsky that I can pursue and perhaps one day perform. Some of my favourites coincide with Rosalind’s but I’m sure we’ll find plenty to agree about and differ over in the coming week.

Perhaps I should end by spotting what I think may be the most unusual item in the schedule which is the all male chorus version of The Star Spangled Banner by Stravinsky (Friday 0700). This must have an interesting history, I can’t wait.

Scott Cooper

Yes should be a very interesting week. I myself am taking the opportunity to complete my collection of Stravinsky works. I will still be listening to Tckaikovsky in between but I am more interested in Stravinsky. I know most of his works already but want to listen to the other arrangements like the pianola and others e.g. Scherzo a la russe for 2 pianos.

Looks like I will be up most of the night listening out for them. The two pieces I am looking forward to hearing the most are Fanfare for a New Theatre and Canon for Orchestra. I have no idea what I am in for in thses two (and many others I haven't heard) but I am a trumpet player myself so will be interesting to hear!

Happy listening.

Paul Hubert

Paul Beecham wrote 'I think we seldom really challenge ourselves to select repertoire a long way outside our knowledge and enjoyment range... Consequently I’m really looking forward to finding things I would never have dreamed of seeking out'. I very much welcome that spirit. What a pity then that the Tchaikovsky experience is being used to usher in a schedule change which will destroy or marginalise some of the key programmes that do that. Mixing It has been ended to be replaced with ... nothing. Late Junction, although often bland and soporific, often delivers unknown and interesting music, but is being cut back and moved towards a graveyard slot.

I welcome the chance to hear lesser known Tchaikivsky in the hope and expectation that it may be more interesting than the popular classics. But would I rather have days of Tchaikovsky or hours of new music by people I've never heard? No contest. No doubt Radio 3 does not want to exactly overlap with Classic FM, but clearly the schedule change is once again edging that way. I suspect for me and many other dedicated R3 listeners (in my case for the best part of 40 years) too much Tchaikovsky and the schedule changes will combine to make this a switch-off point. In the short term, no doubt, R3 can afford to lose us. In the long term it can't.

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