BBC announces 18th-century music season

Programmes across radio and television to explore the rich culture of the 1700s

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Suzy KleinA major season looking at the art and music of the 18th century will be broadcast on BBC Two and BBC Four next year.

Eighteenth Century Music on BBC Four will be presented by Radio 3's Suzy Klein (right) and will look at how the music of the era reflected the social, cultural and political context of Britain.

The series will explore the new popularity of English music with the upper classes and the rise of the fashionable ‘English Oratorio’, and trace the changing attitudes towards music in the 1700s.

Looking at the popularisation of music in the mid-18th century, it will go on to examine a national identity shaped by war and revolution that gave rise to the creation of the pieces God Save The King and Rule, Britannia.

BBC Two will continue the season with the drama documentary Messiah at the Foundling Hospital. Premiered in Dublin in 1742, Messiah was first heard at the Foundling Hospital in 1750 in a charity performance, which is recreated in this programme.

It was the first in a long line of annual benefit performances of the choral piece at the children's home. Handel himself was involved with the concerts until his death in 1759, and became a member of the Hospital's board of governers. As well as raising large amounts of money for the Hospital, these charity events helped make Messiah a firm choral favourite in the UK. 

Amanda Vickery explores this fascinating, little-known story behind Handel’s masterpiece, the golden age of philanthropy it heralded and this ever-popular masterpiece's influence on the history of western music.

The television programmes will tie-in with a season of 18th-century music on BBC Radio 3.

Josephine Franks

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