The week's best classical music programmes for 17-23 August
Twenty Minutes: Total Eclipse
Thursday 20 August, 8.55pm
Broadcaster Simon Heighes is joined by Professor Daniel M Albert, an opthalmic surgeon with a special interest in the history of medicine, to discover the story of the flamboyant English doctor who blinded the two greatest figures in Baroque music – Bach and Handel. John Taylor was a charlatan, who performed a procedure known as 'couching' – using a needle to pierce the eyes to displace cataracts – on Bach. Some months after his operation – after days filled with pain, fever and vivid hallucinations – Bach died. When Taylor was called upon to treat the eyes of London's foremost musical celebrity, Handel, he completely blinded him and the composer never wrote music again.
Music Feature: The Daffodil Maiden
Saturdady 22 August, 12.15pm
Anne Sebba tells the story of celebrated concert pianist Harriet Cohen, considered to be one of the most intriguing musical figures of the 20th century. A musician with a vast repertoire, she had more first performances of works than any other pianist of her day, but is scarcely known today. Long-fascinated by Cohen's story, Anne has read the 3,000 letters bequeathed to the British library to try to understand how Cohen's tempestuous private life impacted on her public performing life.
Luting the past
Tuesday 18 August, 1.30pm
Celebrated soprano Emma Kirkby tells the story of a unique musical instrument, a 400-year-old lute whose ancient wood presents a vivid window into a golden age of music making.
Desert Island Discs
Friday 21 August, 9am
Kirsty Young's castaway is the singer Roberto Alagna. He is one of the most celebrated tenors in the world and one half of opera's golden couple; his wife is the soprano Angela Gheorghiu. Yet, his is not a voice that was honed through early years in a conservatoire. He was brought up in Paris in a family of keen amateur musicians. He used to sing in nightclubs and in those early years, he says, the world of opera was, to him, no more than an impossible dream.
Proms on Four
Friday 21 August, 7.30pm
Charles Hazlewood presents as Daniel Barenboim's unique West-Eastern Divan orchestra, which brings together young players from both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide, celebrates its tenth anniversary with a programme including Liszt's Les Preludes, the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
The Unknown Shostakovich
Friday 21 August, 3.30pm
This documentary, introduced by Shostakovich's son Maxim, explores the private life of this 20th-century composer. The programme includes extracts from the composer's personal and unpublished diaries, interviews with his family, students, friends and collaborators and performances of his music by pianists Rustem Hayroudinoff, Colin Stone and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and the Danel Quartet.
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