Frances Fyfield, best-selling writer and radio sleuth tracks down the hidden stories of musical creativity locked within the hieroglyphics, scribbles and emendations in manuscripts of three great works of classical music.


SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedDescription
0101Elgar's Violin Concerto2004050420040628 
0102Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony2004051120040705Today it's the turn of the Beethoven sketch book that became the Pastoral Symphony.
0103 LASTHandel's Jephtha2004051820040712Frances Fyfield turns the autographed pages of Handel's last major choral work, Jephtha, and discovers a composer tormented by failing sight.
0201Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture2005121320051217Frances Fyfield goes to the Bodleian Library in Oxford to examine the manuscript of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture for clues of how the 20-year old composer came to dream it up on a boat to the isle of Mull.
With conductor Mark Elder 
0202My Ladye Neville's Book2005122020051224Frances Fyfield returns to the British Library's music archive.
In the company of harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock, she delves into the beautifully ornate 16th-century calligraphy and astonishing invention of William Byrd's keyboard collection My Ladye Neville's book.
0203 LAST 20051227 She is joined by pianist Mitsoku Uchida to examine a remarkable manuscript by Mozart.
0301 2007032020070324A 20th-century Russian classic was thought to have been lost, until very recently.
On the day it officially goes on loan to the British Library, conductor Marin Alsop and critic Geoffrey Norris tell its astonishing story, which includes being stored briefly in a carrier bag.
0301Rachmaninov's Second Symphony2007032020140608In 2007 the British Library had taken possession of a newly rediscovered manuscript by Sergei Rachmaninov. The composer's handwritten version of his 2nd Symphony had been lost for almost a hundred years. It was on loan to the library where it had been repaired and rebound. Last month the loan period ended with the sale of the manuscript into private hands for over a million pounds.
To mark the event Frances Fyfield revisits the edition of Tales from the Stave that she made about the Symphony back in 2007. Her guests were Marin Alsop, Geoffrey Norris and the handwriting analyst Ruth Rostron.
0302 2007032720070331Benjamin Britten's working score for his opera Peter Grimes is in the Britten-Pears library at Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
Contributors include tenor Philip Langridge, Britten expert Dr John Evans and Dr Paul Banks of the Royal College of Music.
0303 20070403 Henry Purcell was one of Britain's most prolific great composers.
Professor Sir Curtis Price and Dr Edward Higginbottom examine his Anthems and Odes to uncover the secrets of his art.
0304 LASTBeethoven's Symphony No 9 (choral)20070410 The composer produced two manuscript copies of his last symphony.
One of them, prepared for the then newly-launched Royal Philharmonic Society, is in the British Library.
In addition to Beethoven's notes and revisions, the score reveals the curious story of one of the most famous double bass players of all time.
Bassist Rodney Slatford and conductor and editor Jonathan Del Mar examine this cornerstone of the western classical repertoire.
0401 Iolanthe2008041520080419Frances is joined by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, opera singer Richard Suart and Gilbert and Sullivan biographer Michael Ainger to look at the manuscript of the celebrated operetta.
The score and prompt book offer a vivid insight into a composer at the height of his theatrical powers and a satirist with a clear vision of the way the work should be delivered.
0402Pulcinella2008042220080426Stravinsky's sketchbook for his ballet score can be found in the British Library.
Written shortly after the First World War while he was living in Switzerland, the work marked a dramatic change from the power and rhythm of The Rite of Spring.
The booklet shows the composer arranging and modernising a series of themes and arias originally thought to have been written by Pergolesi.
Contributors include conductor Barry Wordsworth, handwriting expert Ruth Rostron and Maureen Carr from the University of Wisonsin.
0403 Finzi's Clarinet Concerto20080429 Frances is joined by internationally acclaimed clarinettist Emma Johnson as they recall the creation of one of Finzi's most popular and enduring works.
0404 LASTThe Marriage Of Figaro20080506 Frances visits Berlin with conductor Jane Glover and Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans for a rare look at Mozart's autograph score of his magnificent comic opera at the Staatsbibliothek.
They have a unique opportunity to explore most of it, but curiously not all, at first hand.
0501Bach's B-minor Mass 2009120120091205There are very few scores anywhere in the world of more value than Bach's famous Mass.
So fragile is it that the Berlin library where it's kept (the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) allows only a very few people ever to see it, let alone touch it.
Choral conductor Simon Halsey and the Bach soprano Deborah York join Frances at the Library to get closer to the great German composer's extraordinary industry and to catch a glimpse of his humanity.
It is often half-jokingly said that, to his fans, Bach is not so much a composer as a religion; but here, in his neat hand, are the crossings out and re-workings of a man still seeking to perfect music, much of which was written earlier in his life.
Simon Halsey has described the B-Minor Mass as 'Bach's greatest hits', since in many ways it is a compilation of pieces he had composed over a number of years.
The Berlin score isn't simply a fair copy of this assembly, but shows Bach still hard at work, changing his mind, rewriting - a phrase shifted here, a key modulated there - introducing new instrumentation and striving for something better.
There is also an incredible technological story to tell.
Bach's pages are literally thick with music - so thick that in many places the ink has actually burned through the paper, leaving it almost impossible to read.
So the Library has had to split the single pages open and insert a protective sheet to stabilise the ink-burn.
Frances Fyfield and guests get closer to Bach's industry and see a glimpse of his humanity
0502Tippett: A Child Of Our Time 2009120820091212Frances Fyfield tracks down the stories behind the scores of well-known pieces of music.
Using the pencil-written score and private notebooks and letters, Frances unpacks the creative story behind Sir Michael Tippett's oratorio, A Child of Our Time.
With its Spiritual Choruses mixed with the stark modernity of its forbidding message, it stands now as one of the most powerful statements about man's potential for inhumanity to man.
As the letters and notes reveal, the inspiration for the peace was the shooting in 1938 of a German diplomat in Paris by an enraged 17-year-old Jewish boy, powerless to stop the Nazi attrocities against his family in Germany.
His actions, twisted by Nazi propoganda, provoked Kristalnacht: a rising against Jewish people and property which resulted in the burning of synagogues and Jewish shops and houses.
already a passionate political thinker, Tippett tried to express his feelings through a three-part oratorio that described the way a man, the child of the title, can be coralled into an act of self-destruction.
And set against this dark journey are the spirituals, one of which - 'Steal away to Jesue' - he had heard and been inspired by on a radio broadcast.
Like Bach's chorales, they remain a way into the piece for many listeners, commenting on the moods and reflecting on the anger, despair and resignation of the child's journey.
As well as revealing Tippett's workings and worryings over the music, the British Library's archive also throws light on the way the libretto developed, being sent for improvement to the poet Ts Eliot, who promptly sent it back advising the composer that he was managing quite well on his own.
Joing Frances are the singer Sarah Walker, who sang the vital mezzo soprano role in a recording made in 1991 with the composer himself conducting, the music scholar and writer Paul Banks and the graphologist Ruth Rostron.
Frances Fyfield and her team explore Tippett's pre-war masterpiece, A Child Of Our Time.
0503Holst: The Planets 2009121520091219Frances Fyfield tracks down the stories behind the scores of well-known pieces of music.
Holst apparently hated the popularity of The Planets.
He sat down to compose it in 1914 and it had its first performance in 1918.
Given that English audiences were used to Elgar, this massive 'modern' orchestral work came as a huge surprise to concert goers, and they loved it.
From the opening 5/4 tempo of the first movement of Mars, this could be considered one of the first great pieces of 20th-century English music.
Holst had recently heard the revolutionary compositions of Schoenberg and Stravinsky and in The Planets, he mixes harmonies and rhythms in the most dramatic way.
Not all of the score is in his own hand, as he suffered from neuritis, so he sometimes used copyists to help with his composition.
Frances' guests select their favourite movements from the score, which is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and they are joined by the curator Martin Holmes, who looks after the precious manuscripts there.
The seven movements don't include Pluto; that was only discovered in 1930, four years before his death.
The success of The Planets overshadowed Holst's other compositions, which are quite different in style from his astrological depictions.
While the piece is still popular in concert halls around the UK, its also familiar to film fans as it is frequently used in movies.
What would Holst have made of its enduring popularity, 75 years after his death, and what would he have made of its use in computer games?
Frances Fyfield and guests pore over the pages of the manuscript of Holst's The Planets.
0504 LASTChopin: Barcarolle 2009122220091226Frances Fyfield tracks down the stories behind the scores of well-known pieces of music.
Frances is joined by Chopin expert Adam Zamoyski and pianist Stephen Hough at the British Library to look at the autographed score of Chopin's Barcarolle.
The library is holding a major exhibition in 2010 to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.
The greater part of Chopin's professional career was spent outside his native Poland - most of it in Paris, where he established himself as a fashionable teacher and performer in the houses of the wealthy.
With a background of Venetian gondoliers' songs combined with Polish references, the Barcacolle for solo piano was completed in 1846 and meant so much to Chopin that he included it in the programme of a concert he gave in Paris in February 1848.
It was to be his last public appearance in his beloved adopted city.
His body succumbed to lifelong ill health a year later at the age of 39.
Frances Fyfield visits the British Library to look at the Chopin's piano score, Barcarolle
0601 20110118 When making plans to celebrate his fiftieth year as a conductor in 1938, the proms founder Sir Henry Wood called on the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose a piece for a special anniversary concert.
The resulting 'Serenade to Music' using sixteen of the finest British singers of the day took its place alongside pieces by Bax, Elgar, Wagner and a special guest appearance from the Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninov.
A setting of lines from Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' it moved both the great Russian composer and the audience to such a degree that rather than being an occasional piece it worked its way into the concert repertoire.
It's now one of the highlights of the Vaughan Williams canon and the autograph manuscript resides with Sir Henry Wood's other musical treasures in the library of the Royal Academy of Music.
Frances Fyfield is joined at the RAM by the music writer and friend of Vaughan Williams, Michael Kennedy, the mezzo-Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers who has twice been selected to record the piece over the last few years, and the Royal Academy's own Jeremy Summerly to examine the hand-written score, complete with the markings of Sir Henry Wood himself, who not only conducted the first performance but recorded it only a few days later at Abbey Road studios.
Producer: Tom Alban.
Frances Fyfield returns with her forensic exploration of great classical music manuscripts
0602 20110125 Frances Fyfield and her guests examine the Eric Coates' manuscript score of The London Suite for this week's Tales From the Stave.
With Frances in the Royal College of Music library are the conductor and orchestrator, John Wilson, music presenter, Rob Cowan and handwriting expert, Ruth Rostron.
Librarian Peter Horton keeps careful watch over the manuscript.
Eric Coates began his music career by playing the viola professionally.
He excelled at the Royal Academy of Music and eked out a living perfoming in various orchestras.
His first love though was composition and his desire was to write popular music enjoyed by all.
A founding member of the Performing Rights Society which collects revenues on behalf of composers and others, he eventually became one of best loved popular light music composers and earned a very good living from his writing.
His gift for melody leaves a legacy of tunes which are instantly recognisable today.
Perhaps his best known piece for Radio 4 listeners is 'By the Sleepy Lagoon' which is the theme tune for 'Desert Island Discs'.
Yet he did not always enjoy a positive relationship with the BBC, and later in his career he felt the organisation was discriminating against his music when programming the Proms.
He wrote "I think (and many musicians agree with me) that the BBC is absolutely wrong in its attitude towards the best in light music, for it is fostering an insidious from of musical snobbery amonth listeners, teaching them to despise melody."
Join Frances and her guests as they look at the craft of Coates, his skill and excellence and assess The London Suite.
Producer: Sarah Taylor.
Frances Fyfield and guests pore over Eric Coates' manuscript score of his London Suite.
0603 LASTBizet's Carmen20110201 In the last programme of the series telling the stories of famous pieces of music through the hand-written
manuscripts on which they were first created, Frances Fyfield is at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France - the French National Library.
Her subject is the score and rehearsal material for Bizet's Carmen.
It has become one of the most popular
operas in the repertoire but the story in the manuscript belies the ebullience and self-confidence of the
many tunes now embedded in our culture.
Frances finds out about the struggles at the Opera Comique as this ultimately tragic story threatened the
gentility and bonhomie of the clientele.
'Please' said one of the managers at the time 'don't let Carmen die'.
Sadly for him, fortunately for posterity, Bizet and his librettists stuck to their guns and to the word of the
original Prosper Mérimée story on which the opera was based.
Carmen dies, and has gone on dying ever since.
Frances is joined by the singer Bea Robein and the music writer and editor Richard Langham Smith.
Producer: Tom Alban.
For the last in the series, Frances Fyfield explores the score of Bizet's Opera Carmen.
0701 2011101820111022Returning for a seventh season, crime writer Frances Fyfield once again leads off her series exploring the tales and tribulations revealed in the hand-written music manuscripts of some of the greatest works of classical music.
The opening programme of the series takes us to Paris where a beautifully crafted wooden box made in London in the mid 19th century houses Mozart's handwritten score of 'Don Giovanni'.
The Mozart expert and renowned conductor Jane Glover and arguably the world's finest living singer of the title role, Simon Keenlyside join Frances at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France as guests of their head of music manuscripts Elisabeth Giuliani.
How the score came to be in Paris after a spell in London, what secrets it reveals of Mozart's rush to complete it for a premiere in Prague and why one of the boldest lines in his entire operatic output should have been crossed out with a clear intent for it to be put back as soon as the censor's back was turned, will be revealed.
It's also a chance to be astonished by the sheer detail of Mozart's musical invention, his professionalism as he adapts the odd line or the shaping of a phrase to fit the singers he was writing for, and blotches and coffee stains which give a vivid sense of the speed at which he was working.
All that plus the story of Giovanni's ruthless seductions, hell-raising lifestyle and some of the most celebrated music ever composed for the operatic stage - in Tales from the Stave.
Producer: Tom Alban
Also featured in the series: Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks.
Frances Fyfield's series of forensic musical discovery returns with Mozart's Don Giovanni.
0702 2011102520111029Frances Fyfield and a team of musical experts look at the scores of one of Sir Hubert Parry's best known works: his anthem 'I Was Glad'.
'Dear Parry,
The King wishes you to write something for the Coronation Service and I am desired to propose this to you in His Majesty's Name.
Your know already how much I hope you will write an anthem ' I was glad'.
The Director of Music for the forthcoming coronation of King Edward VII contacted Parry with this request and Parry's resulting setting of Psalm 122 remains one of the great pieces of Anglican ceremonial music.
It's been a favourite at Coronations and it was played at Westminster Abbey earlier this year when Catherine Middleton processed up the aisle to meet Prince William.
Frances Fyfield is joined by Parry expert, Jeremy Dibble, Peter Wright, director of music at Southwark Cathedral, custodian of the score, Royal College of Music librarian Peter Horton and handwriting expert, Ruth Rostron.
Producer: Sarah Taylor.
Frances Fyfield's forensic musical discovery continues with Parry's anthem I Was Glad.
0703Handel's Firework Suite2011110120111105'The Peace is signed between us, France, and Holland, but does not give the least joy; the stocks do not rise, and the merchants are unsatisfied.in short, there has not been the least symptom of public rejoicing; but the government is to give a magnificent firework.
(Horace Walpole to Horace Mann, 24 October 1748)'
Handel was commissioned by King George II to compose an orchestral work to accompany a lavish firework display to celebrate the end of Austrian War of Succession.
It was the most spectular display of fireworks ever seen and crowds queued for hours to enter the park.
The festivities went on for nine hours with part of the pavillion catching fire.
Christopher Hogwood, Graham Sheen, Ruth Rostron and Nicolas Bell join Frances Fyfield around the maunscript to look at Handel's original intentions in one of his most popular orchestral works.
Included with the artefacts is a pamplet detailing the order of the firework display.
It makes the millenium firework celebrations look puny by comparison!
Frances Fyfield's forensic musical discovery continues with Handel's Firework Suite score.
0704 LAST 2011110820111112Frances Fyfield's musical discoveries conclude with Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
Written when he was still little more than an aspiring composer, driven by the image of a woman with whom he had fallen passionately in love from afar, and breaking new ground in the drama of concert performance, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is one of the most important manuscripts held at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.
With the help of the conductor Nigel Simeone, the Berlioz scholar Professor Peter Bloom and the music curator Cecile Reynaud, Frances Fyfield discovers the youthful energy of the handwritten score that Berlioz kept with him for fourteen years before delivering it to the publishers.
In that time there were rewrites, extra parts written in for extraordinary circumstances and all the usual tweaks and refinements you'd expect of a composer working towards his imaginative ambitions.
But the score also comes complete with the composer's dedications to Harriet Smithson, the Anglo-Irish actress whose image became the famous 'idee fixe' of the symphony.
This simple melody returns again and again throughout the five movements.
The programme also uses extracts from Berlioz programme notes for the Symphony and from his Memoirs written later while in England.
Extracts translated by Michel Austin.
There are also printed programme notes created for the first audiences, notes describing the 'story' of a young man taking opium and having a sequence of dreams and imaginings about his love, his jealousy, his death at the scaffold and the witches' sabbath thereafter.
As well as evidence of extraordinary musical imagination the manuscript score also displays bizarre gothic doodles alongside the fourth movement, complete with ravens, chains and helmets.
This, the famous March to the Scafford was actually lifted from one of the composer's earlier operas that doesn't survive.
To make it work in the symphony, Berlioz felt it needed the inclusion of the 'idee fixe', and there, on the last page, in the dying breath of the hero as he awaits the guillotine's blade, it appears wistfully played by the clarinet.
And just to cap it all there are the many exotic instruments Berlioz called upon, including the magnificent brass ophycleide.
It's all in the last of this series of Tales from the Stave.
Producer: Tom Alban.
0801Young Persons Guide To The Orchestra2012051520120519When Benjamin Britten was asked to contribute to an educational film about the symphony orchestra, he turned to a theme by that other great British composer, Henry Purcell.
The resulting theme and variations - a 'Young Person's Guide' - has become, over the years, a staple of concerts for young and old alike - such as its appearance in the most recent BBC Last Night of the Proms in 2011.
But the composing manuscript on which Britten worked out his brilliant and buoyant series of instrumental illustrations was given to a young lady working on the projec,t while Britten turned his attention to a full orchestral score.
It's only in the past few months that the manuscript showing the composer at work came to light and was saved from overseas sale by the British Library.
Frances Fyfield is joined by conductor and friend of Benjamin Britten, Steuart Bedford, as well as the young musician and scholar Christopher Milton and hand-writing analyst Ruth Rostron to decipher the composer's working out of a piece - as familiar now as it has ever been.
Rather than a tidy, fair-copy this is the composer in full creative flight. All the more surprising then that it isn't punctuated by the scrubbings and editing of uncertainty. Instead, it's full of confidence and suggests a man at work on a lifelong project - making his music accessible to the ears and minds of the young.
And Frances also gets to meet the lady who looked after the score for half a century, with little idea of what it might be worth.
Producer: Tom Alban.
Episode 01 of 03
0802Hummel's Trumpet Concerto2012052220120526Johann Hummel was a hugely important figure in the musical landscape of the early 19th century. He worked alongside Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, had a love-hate relationship with Beethoven. He taught and inspired the likes of Felix Mendelssohn and was both a celebrated pianist and composer. But today he's best known for composing one of the two great trumpet concertos of the Classical age. Along with the Haydn, composed a couple of years earlier in 1801, Hummel's Trumpet concerto was a response to the new technology being pioneered by the instrument designer and player Anton Weidinger.
There are many challenges throughout the modern trumpet repertoire but the Hummel is still a proving ground and Alison Balsom is one of those to have mastered it. She joins Frances Fyfield and the musicologist Thomas Schmidt to find out how the original manuscript differs from the version performed today which benefits from the later development of the valved, rather than the keyed, trumpet.
Nicolas Bell of the British Library reveals how Hummel's concerto came to be housed here and, with her trumpet on hand to illustrate, Alison Balsom explains the finer points of 'double-tonguing' a technique vital to the performance of the concerto's dazzling third movement.
Above all else the easy, dancing music Hummel created for the newly versatile Trumpet of the 19th century is given a welcome celebration.
Producer: Tom Alban.
0803 LASTVivaldi's Flute Concerto2012052920120602In a special edition of Tales from the Stave Frances Fyfield heads to Edinburgh to tell the story of what was thought to be a lost Vivaldi Flute Concerto.
It's a rare and thrilling moment for a classical music researcher to unearth a manuscript that has been hidden for centuries. But that was the lot of Andrew Woolley when he found, nestling in the Marquesses of Lothian's family papers at the National archives in Edinburgh, a Flute concerto by Antonio Vivaldi.
In this Tales from the Stave Special, Frances follows the research, cross checking and confirmation that followed Andrew's discovery and lead, very quickly, to the first recording and first recorded performance of the concerto known as Il Gran Mogol.
The manuscript, copied out from a lost original and probably sold to Lord Robert Kerr during a continental journey, tells the story of Vivaldi's composing methods and the cross fertilization of Southern European creativity and the Scottish Enlightenment. Andrew Woolley and the Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot help tell the concerto's story.
Producer: Tom Alban.
0901Appalachian Spring2013061120130615Frances Fyfield examines Copland's ballet score at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.
Frances Fyfield is back with a new series of Tales from the Stave which begins in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The manuscript being examined is Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" - written for the Martha Graham Dance company during the Second World War. The Ballet was first performed in the Library itself, and joining Frances is the current Martha Graham Company director of music Aaron Sherber, the former dancer and now Director of the Martha Graham center of Contemporary Dance Janet Eilber and the Library of Congress librarian Loras Schissel.
As well as Copland's beautifully presented pencil-written sketches and score, including the famous shaker tune 'A gift to be simple' there are also the letters written to Copland by Martha Graham in which she outlined her initial ideas about a ballet that has become an American classic. And while charting a close partnership between choreographer and composer, the score also reveals performance secrets such as the changes made to incorporate the desires of a guest performer - Rudolf Nureyev.
Producer: Tom Alban.
Frances Fyfield is back with a new series of Tales from the Stave which begins in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The manuscript being examined is Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring" - written for the Martha Graham Dance company during the Second World War. The Ballet was first performed in the Library itself, and joining Frances is the current Martha Graham Company director of music Aaron Sherber, the former dancer and now Director of the Martha Graham center of Contemporary Dance Janet Eilber and the Library of Congress librarian Loras Schissel.
As well as Copeland's beautifully presented pencil-written sketches and score, including the famous shaker tune 'A gift to be simple' there are also the letters written to Copeland by Martha Graham in which she outlined her initial ideas about a ballet that has become an American classic. And while charting a close partnership between choreographer and composer, the score also reveals performance secrets such as the changes made to incorporate the desires of a guest performer - Rudolf Nureyev.
0902George Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad2013061820130622Frances Fyfield visits two locations in today's Tales from the Stave as she continues her forensic musical enquiries in search of the life and work of George Butterworth. She begins at Eton College where Butterworth was a pupil. He donated the manuscript of his song settings of A 'Shropshire Lad' to the library and Michael Meredith shows Frances and baritone Roderick Williams the manuscript and some rather special editions of A.E. Houseman's poems. They are joined by the conductor, Adrian Davis and handwriting expert, Ruth Rostron.
They continue the Butterworth trail to Oxford where Butterworth was a student. Bodleian librarian Martin Holmes and Peter Ward Jones then show Frances, Adrian, Roderick and Ruth the orchestral manuscript of Butterworth's Orchestral Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad. Alongside the manuscript there is also a chance to look at the scrapbook which Butterworth's father compiled after his son's untimely death, serving as a soldier in World War 1.
Butterworth was at the forefront of folk music collecting and was admired by those around him. Contained in the scrapbook are letters from Ralph Vaughan Williams, written from his posting in France 1916, to Butterworth senior, expressing his sadness upon hearing the news of his son's death. George Butterworth was only 31 years old when he was killed by a sniper's bullet. Who knows what else he may have gone on to compose.
Producer: Sarah Taylor.
0903 LASTPorgy And Bess2013062520130630Frances Fyfield and friends explore the score of Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess.
In the last of the current series of Tales from the Stave Frances Fyfield returns to the Library of Congress in Washington to see one of their most treasured possessions. George Gershwin's Opera Porgy and Bess still provokes debate today from those uneasy at the work of three white men, George, his brother Ira and the lyricist Dubose Heyward, in depicting the world of what amounts to a black Ghetto in early 20th century South Carolina. However, the brilliance of the music, and the complexity and craft of Gershwin's score is beyond dispute.
Frances is joined by the conductor and writer Nigel Simeone, the library's expert Raymond White and most important of all by Solomon Howard of the Washington National Opera. Solomon, who's sung the role of Porgy and has himself experienced life at the bottom end of American society, is given the chance to perform from Gershwin's original manuscript. In doing so he finds small but vital changes from the texts he's used to, as well as evidence of the detailed but vital changes George Gershwin made to the lyrics delivered to him by Heyward - lyrics including famous hits like 'Summertime'.
As well as a full orchestral score there are also the fragments and sketches Gershwin made while living in Carolina where he sought inspiration for this, his most ambitious work.
Producer: Tom Alban.
1001West Side Story2014052020140615Frances Fyfield is joined by Conductor Marin Alsop, writer Nigel Simeone and Librarian Mark Horowitz to explore the boxes full of scores and sketches from Leonard Bernstein's 1957 Broadway smash - West Side Story. They're the proud property of the Library of Congress in Washington DC where the musical was first tried in an 'out-of-town' run before hitting Broadway.
It was something of a tortured collaboration between writer Arthur Laurents, choreographer and director Jerome Robbins and Bernstein himself along with a young Stephen Sondheim. The manuscripts tell the story of Bernstein's ambitions for an operatic score thwarted according to the composer or channelled and controlled according to history. Time and again numbers are cut back, honed, re-worked and refined until we reach the familiar show hits 'Somewhere', 'America', 'Tonight' and 'Somethings coming' which are so familiar today.
Librarian Horowitz also reveals the examples of music Bernstein culled from earlier works and other bits that were composed for the show but ended up in his later Chichester Psalms.
The writing is always neat but increasingly hectic as the rehearsals start in the summer of 1957.
The programme is intercut with extracts from Bernstein's letters to his wife in which he divulged his frustration at what was happening to 'my poor little score'. In the event he rejoiced with his team when the reviews were beyond their wildest dreams.
And there are gems beyond the musical scores. Bernstein's audition books reveal that Warren Beatty was amongst those who tried out for a part. 'Charming as hell' according to the composer but ultimately not quite right.
Producer: Tom Alban.
1002Elgar's Salut D'amour2014052720140531In this tenth series of Tales from the Stave Frances Fyfield takes her musical investigation of the handwritten manuscripts of our greatest composers back to the birthplace of the man who was the subject of the first ever programme. The cottage in which Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, near Worcester, is now a museum in his honour, and amongst the rich archive of his life and that of his wife Alice is the piece that confirmed their relationship.
Salut D'Amour was Elgar's response to a poem 'Love's Grace' that Alice had written to him in 1888. The museum has both the original poem and the careful perfection of Elgar's autograph score of Salut D'Amour which was sent to the publisher Schott. It has all the hallmarks of Elgar's elegant hand, complete with detailed corrections pasted over the manuscript and the composers confident list of potential versions of the piece for piano and violin, piano solo and orchestra. Originally called Liebesgruss - or love's greeting, it was translated into French on the advice of the publisher. Elgar and Alice both spoke good German but French, they suggested, would sell better. Sell it certainly did. In Elgar's lifetime it was one of his most famous compositions.
Frances is joined at the Birthplace museum by Pianist Lucy Parham, Violinist and scholar Rupert Marshall Luck who has been working on a new edition of the piece, and handwriting analyst Ruth Rostron.
The museum supervisor Chris Bennett invites Frances' guests to play the piece from the score in the composers own hand, a unique and moving moment for both.
But it's the importance of Alice Elgar in the life of the composer that sings through this tiny musical gem. It's a piece often dismissed by those who would only have Elgar as the grandest of grand artists, as mere Salon music. However as Frances discovers it contains the very best of him for the very best of her, and in spite of rumours of friction and distance in later married life, the bond between them remained solid. It was cemented first in Salut D'Amour.
1002Elgar's Salut D'amour20140527 In this tenth series of Tales from the Stave Frances Fyfield takes her musical investigation of the handwritten manuscripts of our greatest composers back to the birthplace of the man who was the subject of the first ever programme. The cottage in which Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, near Worcester, is now a museum in his honour, and amongst the rich archive of his life and that of his wife Alice is the piece that confirmed their relationship.
Salut D'Amour was Elgar's response to a poem 'Love's Grace' that Alice had written to him in 1888. The museum has both the original poem and the careful perfection of Elgar's autograph score of Salut D'Amour which was sent to the publisher Schott. It has all the hallmarks of Elgar's elegant hand, complete with detailed corrections pasted over the manuscript and the composers confident list of potential versions of the piece for piano and violin, piano solo and orchestra. Originally called Liebesgruss - or love's greeting, it was translated into French on the advice of the publisher. Elgar and Alice both spoke good German but French, they suggested, would sell better. Sell it certainly did. In Elgar's lifetime it was one of his most famous compositions.

Frances is joined at the Birthplace museum by Pianist Lucy Parham, Violinist and scholar Rupert Marshall Luck who has been working on a new edition of the piece, and handwriting analyst Ruth Rostron.
The museum supervisor Chris Bennett invites Frances' guests to play the piece from the score in the composers own hand, a unique and moving moment for both.
But it's the importance of Alice Elgar in the life of the composer that sings through this tiny musical gem. It's a piece often dismissed by those who would only have Elgar as the grandest of grand artists, as mere Salon music. However as Frances discovers it contains the very best of him for the very best of her, and in spite of rumours of friction and distance in later married life, the bond between them remained solid. It was cemented first in Salut D'Amour.
1002Elgar's Salut D'amour20140527  
1003 LASTSousa's The Stars And Stripes For Ever20140603 It's 'ere we go, ere we go, ere we go' for the last in the current series of Tales from the Stave, Frances Fyfield's exploration of the handwritten manuscripts of our greatest composers. However, rather than a football stadium Frances is in the Library of Congress, Washington DC along with two US Marine Bandsmen Michael Ressler and Ryan Nowlin. They've come to see the marches of John Philip Sousa and most importantly The national march of the United States - The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Sousa's neat scores and his sketch books are far more than just interesting research fodder for these men who have marched to Sousa's beat for a lifetime.
There's fascination in his working methods, many of them explained by a third bandsman and member of the Library staff, Loras Schissel. Sousa never wrote at the piano and rarely put pen to paper before working much of his material out in his head. Melody, harmony, rhythms; these were all in place before he started sharing his composition.
And while his music is full of boisterous confidence, Sousa himself was a modest figure. A violinist and son of immigrant parents he always gave the impression that fortune was kind to him, belying the sheer effort and labour which saw him create his own touring band who were on the road for the majority of the year.
The programme tells the story of how he came to write 'The Stars and Stripes for Ever', the impact it had and Sousa's place in US musical history.
The musical highlight is the moment that our three bandsmen, imitating piccolo, trombone and cornet, perform Sousa's famous trio tune (borrowed by football fans all over the world) in glorious three part harmony.
Producer: Tom Alban.
1003 LASTSousa's The Stars And Stripes For Ever2014060320140622It's 'ere we go, ere we go, ere we go' for the last in the current series of Tales from the Stave, Frances Fyfield's exploration of the handwritten manuscripts of our greatest composers. However, rather than a football stadium Frances is in the Library of Congress, Washington DC along with two US Marine Bandsmen Michael Ressler and Ryan Nowlin. They've come to see the marches of John Philip Sousa and most importantly The national march of the United States - The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Sousa's neat scores and his sketch books are far more than just interesting research fodder for these men who have marched to Sousa's beat for a lifetime.
There's fascination in his working methods, many of them explained by a third bandsman and member of the Library staff, Loras Schissel. Sousa never wrote at the piano and rarely put pen to paper before working much of his material out in his head. Melody, harmony, rhythms; these were all in place before he started sharing his composition.
And while his music is full of boisterous confidence, Sousa himself was a modest figure. A violinist and son of immigrant parents he always gave the impression that fortune was kind to him, belying the sheer effort and labour which saw him create his own touring band who were on the road for the majority of the year.
The programme tells the story of how he came to write 'The Stars and Stripes for Ever', the impact it had and Sousa's place in US musical history.
The musical highlight is the moment that our three bandsmen, imitating piccolo, trombone and cornet, perform Sousa's famous trio tune (borrowed by football fans all over the world) in glorious three part harmony.
Producer: Tom Alban.
1003 LASTSousa's The Stars And Stripes Forever2014060320140816It's 'ere we go, ere we go, ere we go' for the last in the current series of Tales from the Stave, Frances Fyfield's exploration of the handwritten manuscripts of our greatest composers. However, rather than a football stadium Frances is in the Library of Congress, Washington DC along with two US Marine Bandsmen Michael Ressler and Ryan Nowlin. They've come to see the marches of John Philip Sousa and most importantly The national march of the United States - The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Sousa's neat scores and his sketch books are far more than just interesting research fodder for these men who have marched to Sousa's beat for a lifetime.
There's fascination in his working methods, many of them explained by a third bandsman and member of the Library staff, Loras Schissel. Sousa never wrote at the piano and rarely put pen to paper before working much of his material out in his head. Melody, harmony, rhythms; these were all in place before he started sharing his composition.
And while his music is full of boisterous confidence, Sousa himself was a modest figure. A violinist and son of immigrant parents he always gave the impression that fortune was kind to him, belying the sheer effort and labour which saw him create his own touring band who were on the road for the majority of the year.
The programme tells the story of how he came to write 'The Stars and Stripes Forever', the impact it had and Sousa's place in US musical history.
The musical highlight is the moment that our three bandsmen, imitating piccolo, trombone and cornet, perform Sousa's famous trio tune (borrowed by football fans all over the world) in glorious three part harmony.
Producer: Tom Alban.

Duration

  • 30 Minutes

Duration

  • 30 Minutes

Genre

  • Documentaries
  • Classical
  • Music

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