Podcast: BBC Radio 3 presents… Fifty Modern Classics Available now on iTunes
Difficult. When approaching the world of modern classical music, the word is impossible to escape. Commentators have even turned to neuroscience to explain listeners’ abiding antipathy to Schoenberg and his musical offspring. “Audiences hate modern classical music because their brains cannot cope,” declared one broadsheet in 2010.
But here comes BBC Radio 3 to the rescue. Fifty Modern Classics is a series of podcasts running until next summer, which offers a weekly primer in the finest works composed between 1950 and 2000—from Pierre Boulez’s spidery Le Marteau sans maître to Steve Reich’s haunting piece for string quartet and tape Different Trains. Each episode is a lovingly produced ten- minute documentary, which pushes aside dutiful biographical set-ups and makes straight for the music.
The commentary, which comes from experts and well-known admirers of the work (mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, novelist Mark Haddon, and electronica maestro Matthew Herbert have all popped up so far), combines authority with enthusiasm. Where else would you hear a phrase like “this unbelievably exciting piece of Dutch post-minimalism” (presenter Tom Service’s description of Louis Andriessen’s 1976 work De Staat)? Like all the best podcasts, Fifty Modern Classics is intimate and informative. Cast off your preconceptions and start downloading now.