Please note that exact dates will be confirmed closer to transmission.
Our Classical Century
Episode one - 1918-36: Suzy Klein and Sir Lenny Henry BBC Four, November 2018
Our Classical Century brings together the greatest moments in classical music in Britain over the last 100 years in a four-part series that celebrates moments of extraordinary musical ambition and excellence, deep emotion and of great pleasure, and the artists who have brought audiences this music. Over the course of the series, viewers will see and hear how, over the past one hundred years, classical music has given dazzling virtuosity and innovation, and how music provided a unifying soundtrack to the times when national identity and destiny was at stake.
The series explores how classical music collided with popular culture, influencing and being influenced by rock music and providing epic film soundtracks. The programme also looks at how classical music is adored by millions, and provides the musical accompaniment to both the most important days as well as the everyday - from weddings to funerals and much more in between.
This first programme captures the profound influence of the First World War on classical music in the UK, both in terms of how it affected a generation of musicians and composers, and how the music they created came to be a crucial part of the nation’s sense of identity; From the martial might of Mars in Gustav Holst’s The Planets to the pastoral beauty of Vaughan Williams’ much loved The Lark Ascending, this film tells the story of the music which brought together the United Kingdom. Suzy Klein and Sir Lenny Henry reveal the phenomenal popularity of the musical extravaganza Hiawatha by the now relatively- unknown composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and examine the enduring impact of the American Jazz-Age with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Suzy and Lenny also look at how Hubert Parry’s wartime composition to William Blake’s poem Jerusalem became the anthem of the Suffragette movement, and how the opening of Glyndebourne saw the start of a new chapter for opera in Britain.
“Classical music has always been there in the background - I used to have a beatbox back in the day, blaring out Mahler and Mozart on the passenger seat of my van. This music has always been with me and I’m on a journey to get to know it a little bit better; I’m learning the piano, I go to concerts - I love it” - Sir Lenny Henry
Producer/Director: Ellen Hobson
Executive Producers: Stevie Condie, Richard Bradley
A Lion Television production for BBC Four
Holst & Vaughan-Williams: Making Music English
BBC Two, November 2018
Presenter Tom Service is joined by Professor of History Amanda Vickery to unearth the fascinating story behind the life-long friendship between Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, two composers whose music is often credited with birthing the so-called ‘English Sound’ which emerged in the first half of the 20th century.
Tom and Amanda retrace the trips Vaughan Williams and Holst took across the country to discover how various influences, including works by Renaissance masters and folk music, imbued their music with the ‘English Sound’ we recognise today. The BBC Concert Orchestra performs excerpts of both composers’ music, illustrating the story.
Director: Ben Weston
A Reef Television production for BBC Two
Discovering… Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
BBC Four, November 2018
Orchestral music of the twentieth century at its best
This four-part series of ‘Discovery Concerts’ dissect a piece of music, the key things to listen out to, and the context within which the piece was written. The series of concerts aim to lift the lid on some of the most life-changing and seminal musical moments of the last 100 years, and the creative minds that inspired them.
Four extraordinary pieces of music will be performed by BBC Orchestras around the country, giving audiences the opportunity to explore this music in depth with the conductors and musicians who bring it to life.
In the first of these concerts, Josie D’Arby presents the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924), conducted by Thomas Dausgaard from Glasgow City Halls.
A landmark twentieth century work, Rhapsody in Blue drew on the jazz scene which exploded in New York City in the 1920s. Rhapsody in Blue is considered key in developing the ‘American Sound’ during this period which would inspire generations of composers to come.
Josie also delves deep into the story behind Gershwin’s swinging salute to the city that never sleeps, exploring his desire to be taken seriously as a composer beyond the realms of Broadway, and his improvisational approach which drew together so many different musical influences to create such an iconic piece of music.
Producer/Director: Mathew Tucker
Executive Producer: Richard Bradley
A Lion Television production for BBC Four
The Prince and the Composer: A Film about Hubert Parry by HRH The Prince of Wales
BBC Four, November 2018 (Please note this is an archive programme)
In this programme, HRH The Prince of Wales, a longstanding enthusiast of the work of Sir Hubert Parry, sets out to discover more about more about the composer with help from members of Parry’s family, scholars and performers.
This film uncovers how Parry is simultaneously one of Britain’s best and least-known composers; although works such as Jerusalem are regularly performed everywhere from rugby stadiums and schools to the last night of the BBC Proms, many don’t know much about the man behind them.
This feature-length documentary by the award-winning director John Bridcut offers fresh insight into the life and work of Sir Hubert Parry through the unique perspective of HRH The Prince of Wales.
Producer/Director: John Bridcut
Essential Classics: Top 100 Countdown (1-25)
BBC Radio 3, November-December 2018
Over the course of the Our Classical Century year of programming, BBC Radio 3 identifies one hundred key moments from the world of classical music from 1918 until the present day as part of its popular morning programme, Essential Classics.
In this first segment which looks at the years from 1918 to 1936, Kate Molleson, Kate Romano and Gillian Moore present key moments which will include the world premieres of seminal works including Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending and Ravel’s Boléro. Further important dates are also celebrated, including, the birth of composer Harrison Birtwistle, the BBC’s first orchestral concert broadcast, the First Night of the BBC Proms and Nadia Boulanger making her debut as the first woman to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra.