Archive for the ‘BBC Four’ Category

Bach, Handel and The Smiths on BBC Four tonight

March 13, 2009
BBC Four, sometime* patron of music for grown-ups, has a wonderfully eclectic roster tonight – JS Bach at 1930, followed by some divine Handel and then a doc on, and clips from, Rough Trade, the seminal London indie record label which introduced The Smiths and Pulp, among others, to an unsuspecting world.

This is inspired programming by the digital TV channel for grown-ups.

*BBC Four’s music programming generally brings great musicians to a new audience, but some of its recent output has been dire – ill-chosen pap, schlock-filled profiles of show biz entertainers, blah blah… – somebody is slipping up….

Gerry Smith

Van Morrisonfest on BBC Four: a mixed bag

April 29, 2008

Last weekend’s trio of Van Morrison features on BBC Four, an all-too-rare appearance by the Ulsterman on the grown-up TV channel, was a mixed bag.


The main event, a live show performed in February at LSO St Luke’s for the BBC Four Sessions series, promoting the new album, showcased Morrison the peerless live musician as he is today.


With an accomplished 11>13-piece band, he showed how he’s still cutting it as a great performer.  Improvisation has always been his calling card, and the scatting, swing and dynamics of this performance were exquisite. 


The artistry was most evident in benchmark performances of three varied classics – I’m Not Feeling It Anymore, Vanlose Stairway and Help Me.


But stirring performances of the new material couldn’t rescue it for this viewer: reverence for the bulk of the magnificent Morrison catalogue is matched by disdain for most of the material recorded since Back On Top, most of Keep It Simple, the new album, included.


Van Morrison on Later … was a compilation of weak clips from three shows, in 1999 and 2005.  Of the six tunes, only a stirring Philosopher’s Stone, was memorable.


BBC Four then pulled a fast one with its third programme, the 60 minute Van Morrison at the BBC, by including all six clips already seen on Later… .  A great pity, because the rest of the songs, notably And The Healing Has Begun, from Saturday Review of November 1986, were beautiful performances of great songs.


Occasionally, in all three programmes, I pondered: “why on Earth did I kick my two-gigs-a-month Van habit?”  The post-Millennium material peppering all three supplied a ready answer.  



Gerry Smith

FREE! Music for grown-ups on air in the next seven days

March 25, 2008

Over the next seven days, I hope to catch/record these tempting TV/radio broadcasts: 

Wed/Th – nothing 

Fri 28 March

2000 Sacred Music (2/4) – BBC Four

2230 Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz Library – BBC Radio 3 

Sat 29 March

2000 Buddy Holly, Icons Revisited (1/10), BBC Radio 2 

Mon 31 March

2045 Manuel de Falla, Composer Of The Week – BBC Radio 3 (1/5, continues Tues-Fri)

2230 Karita Mattila (Finnish soprano), Artist Focus – BBC Radio 3

(1/4, continues Tues-Thurs)

2300 Maths And Music – BBC Radio 3, (1/4, continues Tues-Thurs)

FREE! Music for grown-ups on air in the next seven days

March 19, 2008

Over the next seven days, I hope to catch/record these tempting TV/radio broadcasts: 

Wed 19 March:  2045 Schoenberg, Composer Of The Week (3/5) – BBC Radio 3

(Plus programme 4 on Thurs, 5 on Fri) 

Good Friday 21 March: 1830 Bach’s St John Passion – BBC Radio 3

2000 Sacred Music (1/4) – BBC Four (repeated Sat 1900)

2230 Anita O’Day, Jazz Library – BBC Radio 3 

Sun 23 March:2030 Sacred Music – live concert – BBC Four 

Monday 24 March:2230 Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour (Instruments) – BBC Radio 2   

Gerry Smith

Sacred music – BBC Four’s promising new series

March 17, 2008

BBC Four, the TV channel for grown-ups, continues its exciting programming of high quality music with a promising new four-part series on sacred music, starting on Good Friday. 

Sounds like Musical Heaven to me … not to be missed …

This is what they’re saying about it:

“Taking the viewer on a pilgrimage spanning six centuries … performed by the award-winning choir ‘The Sixteen’ conducted by Harry Christophers …

“In the opening programme ‘The Gothic Revolution’ begins at St Paul’s Cathedral … travels to Paris to discover how, at the close of the twelfth century, plainsong (chant) became polyphony (music of ‘many voices’) – the birth of harmony in the west.

“The next stop in the series is Italy. In ‘Palestrina and the Popes’ …  links between the papal intrigues of Renaissance Rome and the music of the enigmatic Palestrina, ‘The Prince of Music’. Palestrina’s work is considered by many to be unsurpassed in its spiritual perfection, but running underneath it is the turbulent story of the counter-reformation, which would have a dramatic impact on the composer’s life and music …

“ episode three ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’ … the effect of Henry VIII’s break with the Pope and the subsequent tumultuous history of the founding of the Protestant Church in England through the careers of two professional church musicians who were also superlative choral composers …

“ … Germany where Luther’s Protestant Reformation led to a musical revolution and ultimately to the glorious works of Johann Sebastian Bach …

“A 90-minute celebratory concert accompanies the documentaries with music from the series for Easter Sunday performed by Harry Christophers and ‘The Sixteen’, specially recorded at LSO St Luke’s in London.”

Gerry Smith