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!