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Thursday, June 21, 2012

ANOTHER ODD FACT ABOUT PARIS

Like many other classical music lovers, I have long since grown accustomed to being able to locate a classical music station on my radio in almost any part of America.  It all started for me in the 40's as a boy in New York City with WQXR, which may have been, for all I know, the original classical music station.  It was the norm for WQXR to play entire classical works -- a Beethoven symphony, a Mozart quartet, even -- God help us all -- A Mahler symphony [although that required a health warning that older listeners might expire before Mahler got to the last movement.]  When I went off to Harvard in 1950, I discovered to my delight that during the end-of-semester "reading period" [when slackards read all the stuff they were supposed to have read during term, and the rest of us crammed for finals] the Harvard radio station put on what they called a "classical music orgy" -- a two week twenty-four hours a day bonanza of classical music, arranged chronologically from medieval plainsong to Stravinsky.  The announcer might say, at 4 a.m. [when I was doing my studying] "and here now are the symphonies of Beethoven," whereupon the station would literally play all nine symphonies in order!  Chapel Hill has a splendid classical music station with a hefty serving of early music as well as more popular items from the classical and romantic periods.

When Susie and I bought our Paris apartment, an essential element of our decorations was a Bose radio and CD player, on which I confidently assumed I would be able to locate the Paris classical music stations and program them into the radio's pre-set buttons.  Some tedious scanning of the bandwidth did indeed turn up two stations that seemed to be playing classical music -- 91.7 and 101.1 FM.

But when we turned those stations on, we made a horrible, astonishing, incomprehensible discovery.  THEY ONLY PLAY SNIPPETS.  The announcer promises a Haydn quartet, to be sure, but only plays one movement.  He starts playing a Monteverdi madrigal, and then breaks into it for some useless discussion with a fellow announcer while the madrigal continues in the background.  In eight years, I have never heard either station play a major work from start to finish!  It is as though they think their listeners are incapable of the concentration required to listen to a complete work of music.

I have no idea what the explanation is for this mystery, and I welcome comments from anyone who is more knowldgeable than I.  There is no doubt that when Susie and I attend an early music concert at a church or recital hall, an audience appears who seem quite capable of sitting through entire works, without the interpolation of chit chat designed to take the sting out of music that lasts for more than three minutes.

Susie notes that at least one of the classical music stations also plays jazz.  Now really!

6 comments:

NotHobbes said...

Hope this link helps Professor
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_three

Our other station, ClassicFM is pretty much the same as French counterparts;playing one movement only most of the time

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you. I am listening to Monteverdi even as I write!

Unknown said...

That is disgraceful. In Britain, as NotHobbes notes, there's Radio 3 and Classic FM. Radio 3 is highbrow, plays full symphonies and that (if you get it at the right time of day, anyway), and Classic FM is more of a snippet-y and lite-music station, even though it also has its serious moments.

But you would expect Britain to have a Radio 3. Paris is not disgraced by not comparing to Britain (although even so!). But what really puts Paris to shame is that even in IRELAND we have a classical music station (Lyric FM) which, although home to much lite music, also has a number of programmes, during the day as well as late at night, which play full works. That Ireland - historically a classical music backwater if ever there was one - can compare to Paris is unthinkable. For shame indeed.

Unknown said...

Oh, sorry again. Comment No. 3 is James Camien McGuiggan's.

WO said...

I second the recommendation of BBC Radio 3. It may or may not raise attractive memories from your Sheldon Fellowship days, but on Saturday afternoon Radio 3 is broadcasting a Choral Evensong from the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/programmes/schedules/this_week/grid

It might also be worth checking the German public broadcasting classical stations. As in the UK and France, the leading German private-sector classical radio station seems only to play snippets.

James said...

Temple University runs a good classical radio station if you're interested. A direct link here: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wrti/ppr/wrti.m3u