BBC Radio 3 presents Stravinsky 50, a week-long celebration of the Russian composer across the station’s schedules, including a five-and-half-hour River of Music exploring Stravinsky’s genius with a curated flow of fifty pieces – from celebrated works to lesser-known gems

BBC Radio 3, Saturday 3 to Saturday 10 April – across the schedules

Marking fifty years since Stravinsky’s death on 6 April in 1971, BBC Radio 3 presents Stravinsky 50, a week of programmes across the station’s schedules celebrating the composer’s life, music, and influence in the classical repertoire and beyond. A true 20th century icon, Stravinsky continues to loom large in the music of today and this week of programmes explores his enduring legacy.

Starting on Saturday 3 April with a special episode of J to Z where pianist Julian Joseph explores the relationship between Stravinsky and Jazz, the BBC Radio 3 celebration continues during the week, from Monday 5 to Friday 9 April, in Composer of the Week, where presenter Donald Macleod focuses on the life, works, and influences of this 20th century musical trailblazer.

BBC Radio 3’s Stravinsky 50 culminates on Saturday 10 April with a Stravinsky Day entirely dedicated to the composer. At the heart of its schedule is River of Music, a five-and-half-hour carefully curated flow of fifty pieces showcasing Stravinsky’s musical genius in celebrated as well as lesser-known works, written between 1904 and 1965. The river takes a non-chronological course, its sweep carrying listeners on a journey through every scene of a game-changing composing life, and creating juxtapositions and transitions as it moves forwards. Introduced by Sarah Walker, the mix features performances by Stravinsky himself and by leading musicians, from his contemporaries to our present day. The River of Music is interspersed by contributions from conductors Sakari Oramo, Vasily Petrenko, Simon Halsey and Ben Gernon, singer Claire Booth, pianist Beatrice Rana, violinist Carolin Widmann and composer Freya Waley-Cohen – all discussing their approach to performing Stravinsky’s works, and presenting a special musical choice in tribute to him. The man himself also features with a spoken intervention.

Other highlights of the Stravinsky Day include: Record Review with musicologist and conductor Nigel Simeone joining presenter Andrew McGregor in a survey of recordings of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, together with other releases and reissues for the anniversary; Music Matters with Tom Service exploring the continued relevance of Stravinsky for today’s artists; and the celebrations conclude with Opera on 3, introduced by Kate Molleson with musicologist Jonathan Cross, presenting The Rake’s Progress as recorded in 1997 in a semi-staged performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall, where Sir Andrew Davis conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a star-studded cast: Joan Rodgers as Anne Trulove; Barry Banks as Tom Rakewell; Susan Bickley as Mother Goose, and Philip Ens as Father Trulove, among others.

BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey says: “Stravinsky is one of the most influential figures of twentieth century cultural and musical life: from his ground-breaking creativity and early riot-provoking pieces to the wide-ranging influences which changed him throughout his life. His work is also characterised by collaborations with other art forms – these, coupled with the often complex circumstances of his life, mean there is so much to explore in the life and work of this artist. In our week of special programming we do just that, showcasing the full range of his music and taking the opportunity, 50 years on, to consider his far-reaching legacy.”

All programmes included in Stravinsky 50 will be available on BBC Sounds for 30 days after initial broadcast.


Saturday 03 April | Week 14

J to Z: Stravinsky plus Jason Moran

17:00 – 18:30, BBC Radio 3

Julian Joseph explores the relationship between Igor Stravinsky and jazz. As Julian explains, Stravinsky was inspired by American jazz, but many jazz musicians also took inspiration from him. Sharing classic recordings, Julian charts Stravinsky’s influence on bebop and beyond and explains why jazz musicians can’t get enough of The Rite of Spring.

Also in the programme, visionary pianist Jason Moran shares some of the music that inspires him, including the Thelonious Monk recording that made him dedicate his life to jazz, and a feature by Geri Allen that epitomises the search for freedom.

Producer: Dominic Tyerman

A Somethin’ Else Production for BBC Radio 3

ALL WEEK | Week 14

Composer of the Week: Stravinsky

12:00 – 13:00, BBC Radio 3

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of the composer who is said, in his music, to have ushered in the 20th century: Igor Stravinsky. His name is probably still most associated with the utterly extraordinary, revolutionary evening that prompted that accolade – the premiere of The Rite of Spring in Paris on the 29th of May 1913.

Monday 5 April: In the Orbit of Rimsky-Korsakov

Today Donald will be focusing on Stravinsky’s early relationship with a pivotal figure in Russian classical music, Rimsky-Korsakov.

Tuesday 6 April: With Diaghilev in Paris

Stravinsky’s Fireworks was written for the approval of his mentor, Rimsky-Korsakov. It also marked the beginning of his relationship with another important collaborator. The impresario Sergei Diaghilev had founded a magazine and had promoted, in Paris, an exhibition of Russian painting which had been a big success. Then there had been a sensational season of Russian opera which introduced the great Russian bass Fyodor Chaliapin to Paris. Now Diaghilev wanted to introduce Parisian audiences to the glories of Russian ballet. And he looked to Stravinsky to help him.

Wednesday 7 April: Back to Bach

The programme today explores the period of Stravinsky’s evolution as a composer in which he seemed to look backwards to more classical forms. He was also beginning a life as a more deliberate performer: his ‘expressionless’ music becoming a vehicle in which he could express himself.

Thursday 8 April: Exile in LA

Donald Macleod focuses on the composer’s first years in the United States.
1939 was clearly a pivotal year in world history. He was seemingly, understandably, distraught at his wife Katya’s death, despite his far from loving treatment of her during her lifetime. This was something his children would resent for ever. Now, Stravinsky was further removed from his native Russia and alienated in his adoptive country of France. Although in deep mourning, he chose to accept an offer of a professorship at Harvard University for a year and set sail for the USA, alone, at the outbreak of war, at the end of September 1939.

Friday 9 April: Late Austerity

Today’s programme focuses on Stravinsky’s late move towards serialist methods of composition.

It’s not clear whether Stravinsky’s move in this direction was directly attributable to the influence of his musical assistant Robert Craft, but the younger man regularly conducted concerts which included works by Schoenberg, and Stravinsky seems to have set about a re-appraisal of his own technique.

In his record of conversations he had with Stravinsky over the years, Robert Craft recalls an occasion when he challenged the composer to ‘draw’ his recent music. Craft led the way by illustrating plainchant with a single straight line, polyphony with four parallel lines, Bach with a grid, Wagner with what looks like a diagram of an interior-sprung mattress, Webern with a spiral, and the New Serialists with what looks like a sketch for a painting by Piet Mondrian – overlapping quadrangles. What Stravinsky came up with to depict his own music of the time – the late 1950s – looks like a simplified version of Harry Beck’s brilliant schematic map of the London Underground system, with a series of points connected by straight lines. ‘This’, the composer said, ‘is my music.’

Producer: Martin Williams

A Wales- Music Production for BBC Radio 3

Saturday 10 April | Week 15

Record Review: Stravinsky 50 with Nigel Simeone, Gillian Moore and Andrew McGregor

09:00 – 11:45, BBC Radio 3

Building a Library this week features musicologist Nigel Simeone and presenter Andrew McGregor discussing different recordings of the Russian composer’s vibrantly sparkling Violin Concerto, ultimately recommending the must-have version to buy, download or stream.

Later in the programme, McGregor is joined by Southbank Centre Director of Music Gillian Moore, author of an acclaimed history of The Rite of Spring, who has been exploring Warner Classics’ epic new box-set gathering together Stravinsky’s recordings from its archives as well as historic recordings by the composer himself and his contemporaries

Also on the programme, Record of the Week features Andrew’s pick of the best new release this week.

Producer: Kevin Bee

BBC Radio 3 Publicity

Saturday 10 April | Week 15

Music Matters: Stravinsky 50

11:45 – 12:30, BBC Radio 3

Tom Service explores how the music of the Russian composer continues to resonate in today’s world. The programme includes contributions from, among others, the dancer & choreographer Seeta Patel who famously reinterpreted the iconic Rite of Spring within the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam.

Producer: Juan Carlos Jaramillo

BBC Radio 3 Publicity

Saturday 10 April | Week 15

Stravinsky 50 – River of Music

13:00 – 18:30, BBC Radio 3

To mark half a century since the end of Igor Stravinsky’s long and creative musical life, Radio 3 presents an expertly-curated ‘river’ of his music. Over the course of five and a half hours listeners will discover a rich and surprising mix of 50 pieces by the composer. This is a exceptional opportunity for listeners to immerse themselves in Stravinsky’s dramatic musical world through works written between 1904 and 1965, played by the composer himself as well as by a vast range of performers – from Stravinsky’s contemporaries to the current generation.

Along the course of the river, ten leading musicians give short insights into how they interpret music by this multifaceted composer. How can a violinist balance Stravinsky’s rhythm with lyricism? How does a singer weave their voice in and out of intricate instrumental textures? And what techniques can a conductor use to get everyone to play Stravinsky’s complex patterns in sync?

Besides selections from Stravinsky’s more familiar works, the flow of music features lesser-known gems in brief moments from rare stage productions, delicate arrangements, beautifully crafted songs and solo instrumental pieces. The river takes a non-chronological course, its sweep carrying listeners on a meandering journey across continents, between Russia, France and the USA, and through every phase of Stravinsky’s composing life, creating delightful juxtapositions and intriguing transitions along the way.

Audiences will be able to discover the details of each piece as it unfolds via the Radio 3 website or finding #Stravinsky50 on social media.

River of Music is introduced by Sarah Walker, and features the voices of conductors Sakari Oramo, Vasily Petrenko, Simon Halsey and Ben Gernon, singer Claire Booth, pianist Beatrice Rana, violinist Carolin Widmann and composer Freya Waley-Cohen. Plus, a word from Igor Stravinsky himself.

A Tandem Production for BBC Radio 3

Saturday 10 April | Week 15

Opera on 3: Stravinsky – The Rake’s Progress

18:30 – 22:00, BBC Radio 3

Opera on 3 this week presents The Rake’s Progress – an opera inspired by William Hogarth’s 18th-century paintings of same name, which marked the start of Stravinsky’s collaboration with poet W.H. Auden. Joined by Auden’s partner, Chester Kallman, the two men of words created a quirky parable in rhyme that Stravinsky fired up into some of his most striking, theatrical, and often tender music.

This acclaimed semi-staged performance was recorded on 22rd March 1997 at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and this broadcast is presented by Kate Molleson in conversation with Professor Jonathan Cross, a respected authority on Stravinsky.

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress

Anne Truelove . . . . . Joan Rodgers (soprano)
Tom Rakewell . . . . . Barry Banks (tenor)
Father Trulove….. Philip Ens (bass)
Nick Shadow….. William Shimell (baritone)
Mother Goose…..Susan Bickley (mezzo)
Baba the Turk…..Jane Henschel (contralto)
Sellem the Auctioneer: Robin Leggate (tenor)
Keeper of the Madhouse: Henry Waddington (bass)
BBC Singers
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis (conductor)

Producer: Benedict Warren

BBC Radio 3 Production Symphony Orchestra