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Cambridge Music Festival - Prof . Stephen Hawking

Sunday 5 November 2006 17:45-18:30 (Radio 3)

Tom Service talks to Prof Stephen Hawking about the role music plays in his life ahead of his specially programmed concert at the Cambridge Music Festival. As Western classical music takes a greater hold in East Asia, an investigation into its role in Chinese society.

And coinciding with a festival of his music in Manchester, composer Mark Anthony Turnage discusses jazz, classical and his unique path between modernism and tradition.


45 minutes

In This Programme

The story of Western classical music in China is a gripping narrative of suppression, success and incredible statistics. With 45 million Chinese children currently studying the piano, and massive state sponsorship of music education, the future looks bright, but how did this come about?
At the beginning of the 17th century, a Jesuit priest brought a clavichord to the Forbidden City - the start of China's extraordinary relationship with classical music. Orchestras and conservatoires were set up in Shanghai and Beijing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the classical music scene burgeoned. Then came Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s, and the eradication of nearly all classical music in the country. However, the nightmare of the Revolution did not kill music in China. It resurfaced in the late 1970s and today is once again a powerful symbol of China's cultural might.
Tom talks to the conductor and author Jindong Cai about the remarkable history of China's classical music culture; he visits the Royal Academy of Music in London to find out what has drawn Chinese students there to study in the West; and he discusses the explosion of classical music in China with Sharon Zhu, promotions executive for Boosey and Hawkes, and the journalist Michael Church.

Stephen Hawking
When the theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking was first diagnosed with the motor neurone disease that has crippled him physically, he went to Bayreuth and immersed himself in the world of Wagner's Ring cycle. For him, music belongs to a different category to physics, and any analogy between the two would be superficial, but he recognises the undeniable emotional and spiritual power of music. For this year's Cambridge Music Festival, he has selected a programme of music which reveals three of the works which have had a profound effect on him - Poulenc's Gloria, Wieniawski's First Violin Concerto and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. In a fascinating interview, he explains the reasons behind his choices.
The Cambridge University Music Society concert of music programmed by Professor Hawking takes place in King's College Chapel, Cambridge at 8pm on 11th November.

Mark-Anthony Turnage
The British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage blends both jazz and classical styles in his music. His latest orchestral pieces are three musical asteroids, based on some of the recent observations of astral bodies, and written for the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. He has also just become Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and performances of his first composition for dance, From All Sides, will be premiered by them in January 2007. He tells Tom about the warm welcome he has received in the U.S. and reveals his feelings about the lack of support young composers receive in the U.K.

The Royal Northern College of Music celebrates the music of Mark-Anthony Turnage in Lullabies and Shouts, 6th-9th November 2006.

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