Classic Britannia

Meant to mention this before but forgot. It’s a three part documentary series tracing the post-war classical music scene in the UK. Part one which aired last week concerned itself mainly with the established figures of Britten, Walton, Vaughan Williams, but also with the adventures of a number of misfits at the RNCM in Manchester including Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell-Davies.

Part two was a breakneck ride through the avant-garde, minimalism, modernism and the like with everyone from Cornelius Cardew and Michael Tippett to Eric Morecambe and Doctor Who involved. One thing that struck me, Birtwistle and Gavin Bryars excepted, was how frightfully well-spoken everyone was – be it Delia Derbyshire’s school hockey captain enthusiasm, or John Taveners’ extremely punchable upper class fop persona.

An absolutely fascinating programme, though, with some marvellous footage of the likes of Maxwell-Davies, Daphne Oram, Jacqueline Du Pre, Pierre Boulez, the Portsmouth Sinfonia and Cardew’s acolytes pretending to be pigeons in Trafalgar Square. It’s on the BBC iPlayer for UK readers. It deserves a DVD release, and I assume it wil get one.

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