Radio 3 announces Tributes to Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare and More for spring 2014



  • BBC Radio 3 clears schedule for Maurice Ravel’s birthday: 7 March
  • Never-before-made Dylan Thomas film script immortalised in Drama On 3: 4 May
  • Day of Dylan Thomas centenary programming: 5 May
  • Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston to star in new BBC Radio 3 drama of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra to mark 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth: April 2014
  • BBC Radio 3 to teach production techniques at Southbank Centre Residency: 15–31 March
  • Orchestral Premieres and concerts from the most northerly parts of the UK to the South – including; BBC SSO concert featuring two premieres and James Macmillan’s first return to the Scottish podium in over a decade, Gateshead Jazz Festival, premiere of Sir Maxwell Davies 10th Symphony, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s 50th anniversary concert and more: February – July 2014
  • Contemporary composers interviewed in their workspaces by Sara Mohr-Pietsch in an over 25 part series for Hear And Now: 5 April
  • Music and the Jews – a new series presented by Norman Lebrecht about the complex relationship between music and Jewish identity: 9 March
  • Essay Series on Forgiveness featuring; Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Dr David Starkey, Michael Symmons Roberts: 24 February

BBC Radio 3 today announced a raft of spring programming for 2014, highlighting its role as a unique station that broadcasts distinctive classical music and wider arts programming in three dimensions, through radio, live events and context.

Highlights announced today ranged from world premieres of speech and classical concerts including a day devoted to the music of Maurice Ravel and a world premiere of a never-before-produced Dylan Thomas script. To mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth there will also be a new Drama On 3 production of Antony and Cleopatra starring Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston. This spring, BBC Radio 3 will also be teaching future budding classical music radio producers how to record classical music as part of an arts partnership with Southbank Centre. And other highlights include a major new series looking at music and the Jewish identity, a series of essays on forgiveness and daily live concerts from around the UK through to the start of the BBC Proms in July.

Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms, comments: “Never has there been a clearer example of the distinct proposition that BBC Radio 3 offers its listeners than in the presentation of our spring season line-up featuring music premieres, broadcast firsts, live events and learning activity.

“BBC Radio 3 broadcasts classical music and the arts in three dimensions. We do this through unique radio broadcasts of over 600 full concerts a year, 90 full-length operas, live concerts every evening and over 25 original dramas alongside regular jazz and world programming. We also create and broadcast events that wouldn’t exist without the BBC licence fee, such as the special Ravel programming in March, the never-before-made Dylan Thomas play of The Beach Of Falesa, or later in the year, the full range of BBC Proms. We also use the licence fee to give back to the cultural economy through our learning and outreach programming, which this season includes production workshops as part of our arts partnership with Southbank Centre in March. We’re looking forward to welcoming existing and new listeners to our unique range of content this spring.”

Ravel Day: Friday 7 March

In the tradition of previous Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Webern and Schubert composer focuses, BBC Radio 3 will clear its schedule on 7 March to explore one of the most successful French composers of all time – Maurice Ravel. Many know Ravel for his Bolero, one of his most well-loved works which also inspired a legion of British ice skaters following its use by Torville and Dean in the 1984 Olympics. BBC Radio 3’s composer focus will not only look at the well-known but in true Radio 3 fashion will present the full spectrum of his work and recordings from Ravel’s time through to the present day. The day of programming will reflect the man and his music including different approaches to interpretation of his work – orchestral, song, piano, opera and chamber music –  all on the composer’s birthday, 7 March, led by expert presenters Tom Service and Sara Mohr-Pietsch.

Highlights of the day include special birthday concerts, including one by the great Ravel pianist Pascal Roge and his wife Ami, who will perform a rare performance of Ravel’s own two-piano arrangement of Bolero. Recorded at the Wigmore Hall, BBC Radio 3 will also broadcast a performance from the Nash Ensemble including two of Ravel’s chamber music masterpieces, alongside the Chanson Madecasses performed with former Radio 3 New Generation Artist Clara Mouriz.

Throughout the day, the music will be complemented by a series of new downloads, Ravel Revealed, which will look at aspects of Ravel’s life and art. There’ll be a chance to hear some rare archive alongside commentary from interpreters performing today such as the soprano Jessye Norman and the violinist Maxim Vengerov, and an evening Ravel Soiree featuring guests and live music.

Dylan Thomas centenary: Sunday 4 May and Monday 5 May

Radio 3 will be marking the 2014 centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, whose celebrated Under Milk Wood was first performed on Radio 3’s predecessor the Third Programme. Thomas is one of the best-known poets and writers of the 20th century and the BBC played a vital role in his career. In May, Drama On 3 will be broadcasting the world premiere of a never-before-produced Dylan Thomas script, The Beach Of Falesa. Based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story, the play was never turned into a film in Thomas’ lifetime, and was published posthumously as a novella in 1963. Richard Burton bought the rights and approached Christopher Isherwood to work further on the script but the plans failed to come to fruition. As a centenary tribute, Radio 3 will finally be bringing this work to life as a radio drama.

Also on Sunday 4 May, the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis will present a documentary about the importance of the incredible and distinctive voice in Thomas’s work through exploring his BBC broadcasting, public readings and the famous commercial discs he made in America.

The following morning on Bank Holiday Monday, 5 May, Radio 3 begins a day dedicated to Thomas’s poetry. Throughout the day, Radio 3 will be broadcasting one of Thomas’s poems every hour, including archive recordings from the poet himself alongside new readings and other activities to be announced in due course.

Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston to star in new BBC Radio 3 drama of Antony And Cleopatra for Shakespeare’s Birthday: Sunday 20 April

Actors Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston will be cast as Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in a special production directed by BBC Radio drama’s Alison Hindell for BBC Radio 3 to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

Commenting on the announcement, Kenneth Branagh said: “I’m so happy to be teamed again with Alison Hindell, whose brilliant production of Life And Fate was one of the great pleasures of my work in radio. I’m also excited to be reunited with Alex Kingston after our hugely rewarding partnership in Macbeth on stage. To play another pair of Shakespeare’s great couples, and for a personally beloved medium, is a privilege.”

BBC Radio 3 to teach production techniques as part of Southbank Centre Residency: 15-31 March

BBC Radio 3 and Southbank Centre’s Learning and Participation team will be training the next generation of radio makers as part of a groundbreaking partnership from Saturday 15 March to Monday 31 March. The residency will also see a pop-up studio built in Royal Festival Hall, where the public will be able to witness daily live broadcasts and learn about the art of broadcasting. BBC Radio 3 will bring an array of its regular programmes to Southbank Centre, as well as live concert broadcasts and participatory projects unlocking the mysteries of radio.

For the length of the residency, Behind the Microphone is an initiative which will aim to address burning questions about how radio is made. Visitors and listeners will be invited to the pop-up studio where someone from BBC Radio 3 will be on hand to answer queries ranging from broadcasting technique through to advice on the rest of the Radio 3 residency.

From the Concert Hall to Your Radio: Sunday 23 March, 3pm – 4pm, Saturday 29 March, 2pm-3pm. BBC Radio 3’s programme of live broadcasts brings world-class music and the ambience of the concert hall to thousands of listeners’ homes every year. The public will be invited to join BBC technicians for a free talk explaining the process of live broadcast and including a look at the complexity of recording the organ.

BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert – New Generation Artists: Sunday 23 March, 7.30pm. Featuring members of BBC Radio 3’s international showcase scheme for the very best of young musical talent, including the Apollon Musagete Quartet playing Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet. Plus free Friday Lunch performances from clarinettist Mark Simpson (21 March, 1pm) and saxophonist Trish Clowes (28 March, 1pm).

Mix Your Own Multitrack with Radio 3 at Royal Festival Hall. BBC Radio 3 will be offering the chance for budding engineers to mix their own multitrack with BBC sound engineers. This opportunity for one-to-one tuition puts the public in charge of the mixing desk. More details will be available on both Radio 3’s and Southbank Centre’s websites.

Hear and Now: Composers Rooms: Wednesday 5 March

On Radio 3’s weekly contemporary music programme Hear and Now (Saturdays at 10pm) Sara Mohr-Pietsch presents Composers’ Rooms, a major new series of conversations with composers in their workspaces. Sara will be visiting the garden studios of Harrison Birtwistle and Gavin Bryars, the experimental studios of Dai Fujikura, Matthew Herbert and Kaffe Matthews, and the homes of George Benjamin, Tansy Davies, James MacMillan, Anna Meredith and Judith Weir among others.

Sara Mohr-Pietsch says: “Everyone can imagine what an artist’s studio or writer’s room looks like, but we rarely think about the space where new music is written. When I’ve stepped foot inside a composers’ room I’ve been struck by how they arrange their creative space – the objects they display, the position of a desk, the view from the window – and how it tells a story about them and their music. I’m thrilled to be bringing these rooms and their inhabitants alive for listeners of Hear & Now”.

Oliver Knussen, recorded at his Suffolk home: “I like to work in a nest. I like the idea of sitting at one’s desk and inventing and writing it down and contemplating and reacting to the way it looks”.

Fujikura, who works in a warehouse studio, says: “The act of composing is obviously deeply a part of composers’ everyday life whether they like or not, and it is great that Hear and Now is focusing on the most intimate part of creation”.

Composers’ Rooms will also be available as a permanent collectable series of downloads via the Radio 3 website, along with photos and related content about the composers featured.—

BBC SSO concert featuring two premieres and James Macmillan’s first return to the Scottish podium in over a decade – Saturday 22 February

Hear and Now will broadcast a specially recorded concert from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James MacMillan. The concert marks the first time in over a decade that Scotland’s foremost composer took to the podium in his native country for a public concert. The programme features two World Premieres of works written early in his MacMillan’s career – The Keening and his Symphonic Study – alongside a number of his other works, and provides a fascinating overview of the composer and conductors life in music.

Music And The Jews: Sunday 9-Sunday 23 March

Norman Lebrecht presents a three-part series about the complex relationship between music and Jewish identity. Spanning thousands of years, from King David and the creation of the Psalms, to composers writing today including Steve Reich and Robert Saxton, Norman uncovers a wealth of fascinating stories about the role music has played at some of the key points in Jewish history.

The acclaimed Ladino singer Yasmin Levy explains why music and memory became so intertwined when the Jews were expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, and rabbi Shlomo Levin tells the amazing story of how a marching tune sung by Napoleon and his troops in 1812 became a integral part of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jewish people.

In programme two we hear from some of the most successful women singing in Israel – and indeed on the world stage – today, including Myriam Fuks and Achinoam Nini, and Norman looks at why Jewish women have had such a huge impact on music over the past half century.

Programme three takes as its starting point the moment at which the Jews were finally able to enter the Western classical music tradition in a professional capacity, and Norman investigates the idea of a “Jewish thumbprint” in the music of Mendelssohn and others. Leading Israeli composer Noam Sheriff and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas talk about why Mahler’s Jewishness speaks so strongly to them through his symphonies, and Michael Grade explains how the Jewish art of being one step ahead impacted so strongly on the entertainment industry in the 20th century.

Essays on Forgiveness – Week of 22 February

At the end of February, BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, 10:45pm Tuesday – Friday 22 February, will look at Forgiveness in a series of daily essays by (in order) Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Dr David Starkey and Michael Symmons Roberts. The series explores topics ranging from what Forgiveness is, what Forgiveness most definitely isn’t or shouldn’t be (but often is), and how to ‘do’ forgiveness.

With thanks to BBC Media for letting me republish their content. 


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