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FEEDBACK FROM RADIO 3 CONTROLLER ROGER WRIGHT

Beethoven Experience-Roger Wright

Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright responds to some of your comments and suggestions about 'The Beethoven Experience'.

    Christine Tootill : Will you be publishing a summary of the responses to the Beethoven experience? I don't mean just an edited collection of emails from the public, but how the experiment has affected future plans at Radio 3, what influences the event may have had, whether it has increased the Radio 3 audience in the short or longer term, any unexpected outcomes, etc? Since it was such a novel idea, it will be really interesting to see its effect.

    Roger Wright:
    It has been great fun to read the message boards during the Experience and in the weeks afterwards. They have have shown the positive and personal responses that our listeners have sent. We won't be able to assess the listening figures during the week (our figures aren't documented in that way) but a week like this and the response to it is something we study very carefully for our future planning. In the meantime we look forward to "A Bach Christmas" which we had already planned before the success of the Beethoven project. 
     
     
    Adam Elgar: It's been a marvellous week, one of the richest musical experiences I've known - utterly gripping, a staggering feat of organisation, collective expertise and taste. If we needed reminding, this confirms that Radio 3 and bbc.co.uk are the eight and ninth wonders of the world.
    Alv: How long did the Beethoven Experience take to plan?
    Aman Khan: It has been a venture of excellence the likes of which make me, a migrant to this country from Zanzibar , feel immensely privileged and proud to have adopted this country as my home.
    Dr. Anne-Carole Chamier : Much as I adore the music of Beethoven , I have mixed feelings about your week-long monoplay. To me it has been over-rich: like being force-fed plum cake at every meal for a week. I hope you'll not repeat the idea with other composers.
    Anthony Isaacs : Beethoven has been largely superseded by Mozart . I love both and am pleased you have partly restored the balance.
    Avril Bannatyne : My brother, who is even more dedicated than I am, has actually had the radio on 24 hours a day since Sunday
    Barry Robinson : The work involved must have been monumental, how about a pamphlet on the formation and development of the idea, who was responsible, how did you choose the recording and the artists, were all the works already recorded? 
     
    Roger Wright:
    It has been very heartening to have such a overwhelming response to the project.
    It took a long time to plan and all the credit has to go to our production colleagues and the presenters as well as the other colleagues who make up the whole of the Radio 3 team. One producer, Kevin Bee, deserves the most praise as he oversaw the whole planning. We discussed in different groups which performances we should play and which pieces should receive more than one performance - and we had some lively and heated debates arguing about one performance over another!
    I fully realise that some listeners might have missed hearing a more varied diet during the week but I am thrilled by the way in which the whole idea seems to have caught the vast majority of our listeners' and the general public's imagination.
    We now have so many ideas from an enormous number of listeners about future composers for such treatment but such features must remain special, not part of our everyday programming.

    Keith (The Major): I do wonder whether it would have been better strung out over two, three or four weeks, perhaps giving it a rest at night, because there can't be anyone that has heard all of it, sleep deprivation, and day jobs being what they are, and taking it from the internet isn't quite the same. Also, I think there might have been some advantage in less (apparently) random scheduling - or perhaps your subtle underlying organising principle is eluding me.

    Roger Wright :
    It is astonishing how many people made a point of trying to catch everything - firstly in real time and then in the following week on demand through our radio player - or at least caught the works they didn't already know.


    The Smiths of Glasgow :
    We found that, listening in normal circumstances at home, ie in a flat with people all around, the range of tone/dynamics was too great. In the case of 3, 4 and 8 at least, this meant that the (we thought) excessively quiet passages were inaudible and didn't register on the frequency graph. We feel that some regard has to be paid to sound balance as perceived at home.

    Roger Wright: This is a really difficult issue for us to get right for all our listeners, many of whom listen on high quality digital equipment and therefore want as wide a dynamic range as possible. However we recognise this can create problems for other listeners. Our balance engineers try to achieve a satisfactory result for all - the main thing we strive for is high quality sound, in particular in our live broadcasts.

    Anthony Winder: Why do you keep on asking listeners to email their comments? they are invariably banal, boring, embarassing and of no interest whatever. Next time, please leave the analysis to the experts.

    Roger Wright: We ask for listeners' views because, as a publicly funded network, it is important to us to hear what they have to say. Many of our listeners enjoy this sort of interaction and they often have interesting ideas on which we can build.

    David Monksfield: The only disappointment was that you kept news broadcasts, which had nothing to do with Beethoven. Maybe you could use news stories from the period of the composer's life?

    RW: A fascinating thought. We did this when we broadcast our history of 2000 years of Western music in one day over the Millennium period. When other networks had their news we were announcing the sacking of Carthage ! We might consider it again as one aspect of future seasons - however it is also important for our listeners to keep in touch with the news and it stops them having to go elsewhere for news and missing something before they come back to R3!

    Aidan Foster-Carter: Whereas his piano and chamber pieces are thrilling - especially, of course, the late string quartets -most of the symphonies and other orchestral works
    leave me oddly unmoved. They are more ordinary, somehow.Does anyone else experience such a dichotomy?
    Stuart Manger on Busch Quartet op. 135:
    Peter Cropper was so right about the vibrato of Adolf Busch in the slow movement. A line that stretched out seemingly to the crack of doom, improvising as if the music were being composed there and then. I feel ashamed to have reached my age and never to have heard this version.
    Anne-Marie Mcroberts: For me the real joy has been discovering all these wonderful little pieces that have no opus numbers, so many of them are just such sheer fun, and so full of sunshine. It gives a completely different view of him from the usual picture of him as the glowering, monumental composer that we so often get given!
    Tom Petch : I am struck by the substantial number of works - many of them songs - you were playing that I have not heard before, and which I note you do not list in Radio Times. Were these works specially commissioned by the BBC?
    Martin Rigby: the highlight so far for me has been the Barenboim piano version of Op61, for some reason this has completely passed me by for all the years I have been a Beethoven fan ... Thank goodness for "Listen Again" (almost worth having broadband for in its own right)
    Alan Millard: in spite of Beethoven's assertion that his 'Missa Solemnis' was his greatest work, I remain convinced, thanks to this week's broadcasts, that the fugue in the slow movement of the Eroica and the 'dying fall' of the Soprano in the last quartet of the NinthSymphony were his greatest moments. I wonder if any others would agree?
    Ananda: My highlights-Artur Pizarro in interview with Sean Rafferty, his passion and dedication and his moving performance of the andante favori; waking in the early hours, switching on the radio, and being lulled back to sleep by wacky folksongs; the setting of 'ars longa vita breve' which I would have taken for contemporary music had I not known otherwise; listening to the Ninth symphony with the cat who unfortunately is deaf (he's in good company there) but is very sensitive to atmosphere.
    Angela Smith : Best was the completely stunning Coriolan overture on Tuesday evening at 9.30, played by a Zurich orchestra.

    Roger Wright: I think it has been fascinating to play host to such a debate about interpretations and works. Thanks for all your comments and personal insights.
    It has been moving and very rewarding to hear what part music (and Beethoven in particular) plays in all your lives and what it means to people.
    For us all here, the art of interpretation is a crucial factor in our programming and that is why we put such an accent on this aspect of music.

    Patrick : will we be able to download more than his symphony's?
    Budden: Is it possible to download the symphonies without all the introductions?

    Cornelius Katona : Please could we have downloadable versions of the piano sonatas (already available to listen to but not to download) as well.

    'It has been really lovely to be able to catch these as I missed the original broadcast. I personally would love to hear more programmes available as mp3, especially live performances which Radio 3 does so well. It could include both classical, jazz, world and folk.'

    Roger Wright: We have been as surprised as everyone else by the huge number of downloading requests that we received for the Beethoven symphonies. It is also very encouraging that so many were listening to Beethoven, or indeed classical music, for the first time.
    The world of technology is moving so fast that we need to keep all new media issues under constant review.
    It is important we offer radio programmes (i.e. with introductions) not just music performances - this is part of our unique offering.
    I am sorry that we cannot offer the piano sonatas in the same way. As I am sure you can imagine there are many rights issues which are difficult to overcome. This was not a problem with our own BBC orchestra (the BBC Philharmonic) for the Beethoven cycle.

    David Evans : What plans have you to repeat it, in smaller chunks at a time? There's about 6 days' worth- I think this would be excellent fare for sundays next winter- say from 12noon -12midnight for 12 weeks from October to December.
    Chris Binns : Can we have an end to these thematic weekends and weeks and get back to the wonderful variety that has been Radio 3?
    Andy Hopkinson : Please ensure that this is not followed by a Beethoven famine.
    Chris Benyon : Whilst respecting the tastes of other music lovers who may prefer jazz or world music, it has also been good to have a high-class radio station devoted exclusively to classical music, even if only for a week. In this digital age, surely provision could be made for separate jazz or world music channels, whilst still appreciating the link between all musical genres?

    Roger Wright:
    We all felt a sense of loss when the week was over so I can imagine how many of our listeners felt.
    There was a real sense of the huge journey we had all taken having ended and how much we had all learned from it.
    I now listen to Beethoven in a new way and my appetite for his music is stronger than ever.
    His music will still be a central feature of our output.
    Variety and serendipity remain cornerstones of our "normal" Radio 3 programming and so, knowing that we can never please all our audience all the time (although with our Listen Again feature online you should always find something you like!), I do hope you continue to enjoy much of what we offer.

    Stephen Hitchens :
    Don't know about the suggested Stockhausen Week, but I think a brilliant idea would be a Britten Experience. A definite winner I think. Apparently there is a considerable oeuvre to draw from too.
    Harvey Rose : I am sure that some have suggested Mozart , but can I put in a word for my choice - SCHUBERT
    Paul Fearnley : I'm uplifted, enlightened, short of sleep and behind with work and chores. All this for the world's second greatest composer. What will happen when you do a J.S. Bach experience?
    Margaret Petit : Very few composers could fill 6 days non-stop with such diversity.
    Clare Howse : Could you please do the same for Haydn in 2009, the year which will be the bi-centenary of his death?
    Andy Young : Whilst I think it an excellent idea on the whole, I would request the following composers be considered:
    Richard Strauss , Dimitri Shostakovich , Igor Stravinsky , Franz Liszt
    Oh, and go on then - JS Bach . Personally, I'd prefer if those composers heavily involved in composing opera were avoided....
    Adam Watson : Beethoven 's ok, but a whole WEEEEK of it???? How about a whole week of Messiaen - now that WOULD be good!
    Allan Scott: Dare I hope for the same for Mozart and Schubert?

    Roger Wright: Thanks for these great ideas.
    We have no plans beyond Bach (and don't forget our special Webern day on September 15 th , the 60 th anniversary of his death) - but we will think again about what we might do in the future and consider all your suggestions.

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