Classical: On The Air

THE BBC seems to have done little if anything to mark the hundredth birthday of one of the most eminent British singers of the first half of this century, the baritone Roy Henderson. This is a shame, given his recorded legacy, and the fact that he is still very much alive. Indeed, at a birthday celebration last Sunday afternoon, he remarked that he is the last surviving artist to have recorded by singing into a large horn, the pre-electric method, that became obsolete in 1925.

Recording techniques have, of course, developed startlingly since the early days, and BBC Radio 3's Settling the Score on Sunday, which traced this development, and "From Cylinders and 78s to CDs and the Internet", had fascinating observations to make. Now that all recorded takes are stored in a computer, rather than on tape, musicians are given extraordinary opportunities, and not just the possibility to edit out all the flaws in their playing.

It was Nicolai Demidenko who confessed that he likes to preside over early editing sessions because for him they mark a further stage in the interpretative process. Phrasings and juxtapositions of ideas which would never have occurred to him during the pressure of continuous performance can be achieved through editing. Creative feedback is possible, and the flexibility of the latest editing techniques can both suggest and encompass new interpretative ideas.

In a programme rich in information on broadcasting as well as recording, the accessibility of serious music across an increasingly wide social spectrum was touched upon, and also the revolution achieved through the transistor radio which made private listening possible as opposed to the previously customary family listening. This led to teenage-driven markets (those "trannies" in bedrooms), and so to the pop explosion. From the purely musical view, however, one of the most perceptive contributions to the programme came from pianist Susan Tomes who focused on one of the more questionable aspects of hi-fi recording. Fidelity to what, we may ask? She has found that the clarity of today's recording techniques are in danger of making her self-consciously aware of her own contribution to a chamber texture - this to the exclusion of listening and responding to her musical partners.

Further examination of the pros and cons of recording was to be heard next day in Radio 3's Opera in Action. Martin Handley examined live opera recordings to see whether the spontaneity and risk-taking involved outweighed the flawless but perhaps rather safe results of the studio. An emotionally extended, but by no means exhausted Birgit Nilsson in the "Liebestod" from a live Bayreuth performance certainly achieved an emotional intensity which studio recordings rarely attain to.

But the point is not quite that easily made. There were flaws here which, on repeated listening without the element of total theatre, could begin to pall, and there's much to be said for a studio's clear exposition of the musical text to which we can bring the theatre of our minds. Still further interesting comparisons were made, and it was fun to hear Callas fighting to sing in La Traviata while being unnecessarily and very audibly prompted.

All of which leaves little space to thank John Tusa for saying most eloquently in his Cheltenham Festival interval talks what all committed artists long to say to the politicians: Art does indeed matter. In fact, it is a matter of life and death.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice