Alan Davey discusses the upcoming season on BBC Radio 3
We talk to the controller of BBC Radio 3 about what the station has planned for the next few months
What’s coming up on Radio 3 that you’re particularly excited about in the coming months?
Horatio Clare, who walked in the teenage Bach’s footsteps last year from Arnstadt to Lübeck, is going to be looking at the German 18th-century notion of the wanderer, which as a trope inspired a lot of musicians and poets like Goethe, Schubert and Mahler.
The programme will be interweaved with poetry and music, and is a chance for the listener to pause the outside world and engage in a journey around the Black Forest. We’re not quite sure what the starting point will be yet but we’ve got the maps out. It will be part of Slow Radio, and will take place on Christmas Eve.
Slow Radio is receiving its own dedicated slot. What will that entail?
There are various programmes scheduled: Clocks at Upton House and Night at the Zoo. We’ll also listen to the sounds of Durham Cathedral at night and the Burren cattle blessing, which is an old ritual in County Galway where the herd move from one pasture to another. It happens at the same time every year, and apparently the sounds are magical.
How would you explain Slow Radio to a newcomer?
It’s an opportunity to step back from the world in order to think about it differently. It will take however long it takes, and certainly won’t rush you. The sounds might be something you haven’t come across before or ones you've passed by and not taken any notice of.
I think silence actually sets music off, and the sounds within that silence give you a different perspective on music. That’s what we’ve been working on in our Sounds of the Earth on Sunday mornings. We take a sound, whether its rainfall or wind in the forest, and present music attached to it, in order to make you think differently. These will be available as podcasts as well.
- Six of the best pieces of music inspired by birdsong
- Six of the best pieces of music inspired by swans
Speaking of podcasts, will you be doing a second season of Classical Fix?
Yes, Classical Fix has proven to be very popular. Clemency Burton-Hill interviews someone who doesn’t necessarily know about classical music and suggests a menu for them. The first season was particularly successful as a podcast, so we'll be continuing with that.
How will you be commemorating Armistice Day?
We’re broadcasting Mark Anthony-Turnage’s The Silver Tassie, as well as some silent moments from around European battlefields. These will be Slow Radio-style – the sounds from the battle-sites today and their links with the past give an opportunity for contemplation.
What's coming up in 2019?
For the Berlioz 150-year anniversary we’ve got a special weekend planned, with all the BBC orchestras coming together to do performances of his larger-scale works.
Also, towards the anniversary of the moon landing we’ll be looking at the influence of space on music, which also links back to our BBC Symphony Orchestra concert from the end of September – a performance of Holst's The Planets with professor Brian Cox.
And is it business as usual for weekly programmes like Essential Classics and Inside Music?
Yes, Inside Music - which we introduced relatively recently - continues. It gives you an insider’s perspective on great repertoire, and what it’s like to be a musician playing it. We’re going to have guests like Jacob Collier and Sofi Jeannin, the new BBC Singers conductor, David Charles Abell, singer Jeanine De Bique and violinist Jennifer Pike.
The Listening Service will also continue, with lots of stimulating explanations of music and how it works, including the impact of minimalism on music. We'll be looking at what it is about composers like Steve Reich that inspires very extreme reactions of liking and loathing.
Essential Classics is going to have some really great guests joining Suzy Klein and Ian Skelly, including actors Stephen Mangan, Graham Fellows and Lenny Henry, novelist Jessie Burton and conductor Sakari Oramo. So it’s going to be action-packed.
The BBC is undertaking a huge classical music project this year. Could you tell us more about it?
Our Classical Century is a wonderful pan-BBC project involving four TV programmes, which will look at great classical music moments in the last century. We’re going to match that on air on Radio 3 with 100 significant moments in classical music over the last 100 years, as well as illustrating key works that come out of the TV series by the BBC's orchestras and choirs.
This is the first time in the BBC where we’ve done something around classical music that incorporates both television and radio. It’s looking at great events and placing them in a social context. There’s everything from the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring to cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Chineke!.
At the End of the Road festival this summer you announced that Late Junction was getting its own festival as well?
That’s right, that will be in East London in February. Some festivals just seem to make sense. We actually had an evening at the End of the Road Festival devoted to Late Junction, and it worked really well.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.