Are the 100s of recordings of each Beethoven symphony (and the thousands upon thousands of live performances over the years) really so very different from each other? Can one interpretation be better than another? What is interpretation and why is it apparently so central to Western classical music? Why do we keep coming back for more? With the help of music critic Fiona Maddocks and pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Tom Service is on the case.
David Papp (producer)
Sad songs say so much
In 1649, a month after the execution of King Charles I, the distraught composer Thomas Tomkins wrote a piece of music called "A sad pavan for these distracted times".
And in our own confusing times, is sad music what we need - or not? Tom Service looks at music's power to heal, to build community and to redefine historical events. With Associate Professor at University College London, Dr Daisy Fancourt, and author of "Singing in the Age of Anxiety", Laura Tunbridge.
The String Quartet
Why is a chamber ensemble of two violins, viola and cello the most popular in all of music? The string quartet has inspired - and instilled fear into - composers like no other ensemble, and has been used in pop songs from the Beatles to Bjork. Tom Service explores the string quartet, from Haydn's epic 68 works for the medium, to Beethoven's heroic and tortured late masterpieces, to Shostakovich's 15 soul-bearing 20th Century works. Tom's guests are composer Dobrinka Tabakova, who takes inspiration from the wealth of quartets written before her, and one of the best quartets in the business - the Brodsky Quartet who, besides the great classical cannon, have played with pop artists including Elvis Costello, Sting and Paul McCartney in their nearly 50-year existence.
Beethoven Unleashed: Getting to grips with Beethoven
Beethoven: deaf for most of his life, unbearable egotist, flagrant opportunist and musical anarchist whose music reaches the heights of ecstasy. Where do you start with this bundle of contradictions, probably the most admired composer in Western music, whose works have unfailingly filled concert halls for over 200 years? Tom Service goes in search of what makes Beethoven Beethoven and suggests a few key pieces to help unlock the man and his music.
David Papp (producer)
Tom Service considers the texture of music. We often talk about the pitches and the rhythms in a piece of music, but how does it strike the ear? Is it rough or smooth, dense or transparent? And how are such textures achieved? He talks to composer Anna Meredith about how she creates excitement through combining different layers of orchestral sound; and to arranger Iain Farrington about how to preserve the textures of a Mahler symphony when it's arranged for only a dozen musicians.