« Previous | Main | Next »

Roger Wright introduces The Spirit of Schubert.

Post categories:

Roger Wright Roger Wright | 15:40 UK Time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Portrait of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright reflects on the network's forthcoming focus on the music of Schubert.

There is an important role that BBC Radio 3 plays that is often overlooked, and that is its function as a catalyst for ideas - at the very least, moulding agendas rather than following them.

However it can also have the powerful effect of leading debate and developing tastes amongst our audience and opinion formers. You can feel this happen at the Proms - look at the recent surge of interest in Havergal Brian and Parry, or in musicals and the work of the John Wilson Orchestra.

But you can also see it in our special festivals such as Free Thinking and our composer seasons. In our 'time-poor' world, the opportunity for Radio 3 to single out huge creative figures for special attention and bring them and their work to a wider audience is really appreciated by our audiences. When one season is over the ideas pile in for suggestions for the next composer to be gjven the full treatment. It is, I suppose, an extension of our Composer of the Week principle - if you only have time to think about one composer this week, let us recommend x or y.

Since we announced last weekend that our next major composer focus (at the end of March) will be Schubert, the discussion has begun. Roger Scruton has suggested that we need Schubert now more than ever - 'no writer of music is more relevant to us' he wrote. There is also lots of discussion about the business of finishing works left unfinished by artists. Brian Newbould has bravely agreed to our commission to complete a symphony left unfinished by  Schubert - just one part of our extensive season, 'The Spirit of Schubert'.

Already our Breakfast and Essential Classics programmes have been providing mouth-watering tasters of Schubert to come. Breakfast has an important role in providing pointers to what is coming up on the station and I am delighted that our new morning schedule has proved such a hit, according to the listening figures just released. There has been an increase by more than 25% in the Breakfast slot and our average listening is up by more than an hour a week.

Of course this is only one quarter's figures, but encouraging nonetheless as we prepare to fall under the spell of Schubert.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am really excited by the Schubertiad. Although I listen to Radio 3 all day, as I work freelance, I was a bit confused between Schumann and Schubert (stupid, I know) until, as an actress, I read Schubert's biography by Elizabeth Mckay for RNIB audiobooks. And had to stop myself crying at his death. I hope the lyrics will be available of his songs. (And hope my German pronunciation for RNIB is ok!).

  • Comment number 2.

    Doretta, you can find the texts for over 600 Schubert songs (many with English translation) here:


    Also, I've put together a Spotify playlist for Schubert's complete works in chronological order, hope the BBC DJ can spin some of my choices:)


  • Comment number 3.

    Thank you so much! I think classical musician people often don't realise how important knowing about the life of a musican is for some of us. Radio 3 does it at 12 o'clock every day, which is brilliant. But I know the film Amadeus turned Mozart for me from a dead ancient guy in a wig to a real-life human being, touched with genius. And now I want to read Schubert's lyrics in English. I grew up when there were no surtitles and still can't get into Wagner at all! But now I will work on understanding Schubert.

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh and by the way, in case someone thinks: why is a woman reading a biography of Schubert? It was written by a woman. And I don't have a screechy voice! I so hope RNIB people will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh dear - here we go again. The Mozartathon last year drove many listeners away from Radio 3 temporarily and now we have a Schubertathon. When are these going to end?

    Nothing wrong with Schubert in small doses, but wall to wall Schubert for a whole 9 days!!!!!! What about those of us who enjoy the variety of programming, including Early Music, Jazz, World etc? Jazz is now largely marginalised to the wee small hours as it is.

  • Comment number 6.

    These gimmicky "composerthons" are SUCH a bad idea. Schubert is one of my favourite composers, but to have nothing but non-stop performance of his (or any composer's) work is as wise as trying to work your way through an entire shelf of single Malts in one "go".

    The great composers are best served not merely by regular performances of their works but by putting them in context with their predecessors, contemporaries and successors and in contrast with programmes that have no obvious connection with them. If you're going to highlight a single composer, (not a bad idea) spread the broadcasts over a year.

  • Comment number 7.

    Schubert. Relevant. I agree. I like Schubert.
    Chocolate. mmm...I like that too. Good quality chocolate. I was planning to eat nothing else for a week but my doctor told me it would make me ill. Moderation in all things BBC.

    "I am delighted that our new morning schedule has proved such a hit, according to the listening figures just released. There has been an increase by more than 25% in the Breakfast slot." I am pleased that you are delighted however in our house we have ceased to listen to Radio 3 in the mornings (although we continue to listen to your excellent broadcasts for the the rest of he day.) For us the morning schedule is like eating really cheap chocolate - down market and rather sickly. All that is missing are adverts between the pieces of music and "jingles" telling us how relaxing it all is. Glad that someone likes it though.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree, too much - and there are over 600 songs alone, and one can be left over-stuffed. There is much, too, that is best left out, most of the symphonies for a start, much of the 4 handed piano stuff, but when he is sublime - it is ineffable. Why not dedicate a HUGE slot to every recording of Wintereisse? I can't stop myself from buying every recording that comes along, and barely a month passes by.....

  • Comment number 9.

    This is a deeply unmusical idea, it demeans Radio 3 as a public service broadcaster. Planning of programmes by contrast and synergy used to be the heart of this channel.

    Some greater composers, Schubert among them, can support a whole concert, but 9 days is overkill, you just can not take it all in. Thank god for internet radio which will be my listening during this period!

    This is a gimic, following on earlier gimics, it will get some praise in the media, it will show R3 to be "cutting edge" but in reality it is nothing to do with music at all, a sort of train spotting exercise. And I love Schubert more than any other composer.

    Of course to plan a weekly series, say of the partsongs or song every day on breakfast, or a chamber festival Schubert and Britten say, that requires thought and attention by the listener.

    One used to think the powers that be in R3 contained those who burned with enthusiasm for music, to widen experience, all they can up with now is lets play every Kochel, Deutsche , BWV number. How banal.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.