The Spirit of Schubert

The latest survey of a composer’s entire output on Radio 3 focused on Schubert. As I’ve said in my last posting, I was present at a live evening broadcast, but I also found time to listen to some of the rest of the programming, avoiding the ‘dedication and request’ slots for the most part.

As usual with these ventures, there was a chance to discover lesser-known pieces: for example, Schubert’s setting of a psalm in Hebrew for a Viennese synagogue. This was balanced by avoiding those pieces such as Fierrebras that I’d previously tried and failed with. Of course the programmes had to include all the Lieder (I recall the previous broadcast of all the Lieder over the space of a year to mark the anniversary of his death). It was fun to play the game of turning on the radio and trying to guess the singer; as they largely stuck to great interpreters of these songs, I was able to do this a lot of the time.

But I have one gripe. When this was done for J.S. Bach, the programming was comparable in its overall length and the number of separate pieces to be included. With Bach, the programme listings told you exactly when every last cantata and chorale prelude was due to be programmed, and details of the performers, no matter what time of day or night it went out. With Schubert, this was only done for the major works; everything else was grouped into ‘themes’. So if you had a favourite obscure song or classic performance, you could not find out when it would come round or who the singer would be. Did they broadcast Dinu Lipatti playing the Impromptus? Marian Anderson singing Death and the Maiden? I hope so, but I had no way of telling, or of making a point of catching them.

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