Hear And Now 50

Artists, musicians and composers introduce fifty key pieces of classical music composed between 1950 and 2000. As featured in the Radio 3 programme, Hear and Now.


Arvo Part's Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten20111225

Roxanna Panufnik nominates Arvo Part's Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten, "beautifully simple and spiritual" music that she feels a strong connection to; while Paul Griffiths tells of Part's early struggle to find his own voice in Soviet Estonia and subsequent breakthrough with a radical new style he called Tintinnabuli.


Brian Ferneyhough's Bone Alphabet20111204

Percussionist Steven Schick recalls how a chance meeting with Brian Ferneyhough led to the commission of Bone Alphabet, the composer's only piece for non-pitched instruments; and writer Paul Griffiths describes the work's physicality and rhythmic complexity.


Conlon Nancarrow's Study No.2120111211

Stephen Fry describes his delight and bewilderment at first hearing Conlon Nancarrow's Study No. 21 - also known as Canon X - for player piano. Nancarrow devoted his composing life to creating futuristic canonic studies for his custom-altered 1920s Ampico instrument, combining elements of jazz, Bach and Stravinsky, as we hear from the other voice in this episode, pianist Joanna MacGregor.


Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning20111030

Pianist and Scratch Orchestra member John Tilbury speaks up for The Great Learning by the radical British composer and political activist Cornelius Cardew. Paul Griffiths explains its place in Cardew's musical and political thinking, and the composer suggests musicians abandon ‘individual choice’ and join together to orchestrate social change.

Edgard Varese's Poeme Electronique20111113

Composer and former Battles frontman Tyondai Braxton nominates Poeme electronique by Edgard Varese, whose soundworld has been a continuing influence on his own work; while Gillian Moore tells the story of Varese's long struggle to create a futuristic music that he finally achieved in this piece, composed for an array of hundreds of loudspeakers inside the Le Corbusier-designed Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair.


Elliott Carter's String Quartet No.320111002

Novelist and poet Mark Haddon explains what it is about Elliott Carter's String Quartet No.3 that reminds him of an argumentative family meal; the composer himself describes with relish his 'eclipses' of sound; and Paul Griffiths explains Carter's use of metric modulation.


Gyorgy Ligeti's Atmospheres20110925

Film-maker Sophie Fiennes explains why she chose György Ligeti's Atmosphères for the soundtrack of a film about artist Anselm Kiefer, and Paul Griffiths explains its significance in Ligeti's development of cloud-like musical structures. And we also hear from the composer himself.


Howard Skempton's Lento20111127

Artist Tom Phillips on Howard Skempton's Lento for orchestra, a completely tonal piece that he admires for achieving "content with simplicity"; Gillian Moore puts it in the context of the English experimentalist tradition; and the composer himself explains in detail the process by which he developed his initial sketches into the finished work.


Iannis Xenakis's Nomos Alpha20111023

Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy explains how Iannis Xenakis uses the symmetry of a cube to determine musical parameters in Nomos Alpha for solo cello; Paul Griffiths highlights the composer's innovations in the fields of sound and instrumental writing; and we hear an archive interview in which Xenakis credits his teacher Olivier Messiaen in helping him to find his own compositional voice.


John Cage's 4'33"20111106

Artist Tacita Dean on John Cage's legendary 4'33" and how it provided an inspiration for Stillness, her 2007 project with choreographer Merce Cunningham. Conductor and Cage collaborator Richard Bernas underlines some important but often neglected aspects of the score and draws a parallel with the visual arts scene of 1950s New York. And we hear the voice of the composer himself from a 1970s BBC interview with critic Frank Kermode.


Jonathan Harvey's Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco20120122

Film director Barrie Gavin selects Jonathan Harvey's Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, an electroacoustic piece made from the sound of the largest bell at Winchester Cathedral and the voice of the composer's chorister son. Commentator Gillian Moore describes how Harvey used technology at IRCAM in Paris to manipulate and integrate these two sounds, and we hear from Harvey himself on the significance of the bell's inscription and the qualities of its tonal spectrum.


Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen20120115

Finnish conductor and music director of Ensemble InterContemporain Susanna Malkki pays tribute to Stockhausen's 1950s masterpiece Gruppen for 3 orchestras, and highlights some of the challenges to conductors in performing it; commentator Paul Griffiths places the work in the context of Stockhausen's early output, and explains how the shape of a mountain view in Switzerland dictated the work's tempo patterns.


Louis Andriessen's De Staat20111016

Dutch composer Michel van der Aa salutes compatriot Louis Andriessen's 1976 work for amplified voices and large ensemble, De Staat. Gillian Moore highlights the modern scoring of the work, informed as much by rock music as Stravinsky, while the composer himself reveals how a recording of a Javanese women's choir fed directly into the soundworld of this powerful setting of a text from Plato's Republic.


Luciano Berio's Sinfonia20120108

Conductor Richard Bernas recalls his momentous first encounter with Berio's Sinfonia, a work which reflected and commented on the events of its time, from the Paris riots to the assassination of Martin Luther King, and whose third movement is an extraordinary assemblage of musical and literary quotations. Commentator Gillian Moore explains the significance of the texts which include Levi-Strauss's Le Cru et le cuit and Samuel Beckett's The Unnamable; and we hear from the composer himself, speaking about the work in 1991.


Morton Feldman's Extensions 320111218

Howard Skempton singles out Extensions 3 by the American composer Morton Feldman, a piece he found "liberating, inspiring, and radically different". Paul Griffiths places the work in Feldman's early output and highlights the challenges to performers of music which is both very slow and very quiet. Plus excerpts from a BBC archive interview in which Feldman himself describes his approach to composition.


Not Allowed
Pierre Boulez's Le Marteau Sans Maitre20111009

Sir Harrison Birtwistle singles out Pierre Boulez's 1950s cycle for voice and mixed ensemble, and describes encountering the score for the first time, while Paul Griffiths explains how the composer employed total serialism and a radical new approach to instrumentation in illuminating the fleeting, surrealist poetry of Rene Char.

Steve Reich's Different Trains20110918

Matthew Herbert, songwriter and electronic music producer, reflects on the continuing relevance of Steve Reich's seminal 1988 piece for string quartet and tape, where recorded speech leads the melodic lines to create a remarkable and evocative atmosphere. The feature includes commentary from the South Bank's Head of Contemporary Culture Gillian Moore, and we also hear the voice of the composer himself.



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