RADIO / From French to Greek, via Waterloo

'QUEL age as-tu?' demands a stern woman. Silence. What is this? It should be Glushchenko conducting Grieg. No time for dithering. 'Repondez]' she insists, menacingly. Then the penny dropped. I'd tuned in to Radio 3 a moment too soon and had joined Le Club, a primary French lesson (all they ever seem to teach is how to find out somebody's age). Schools programmes, ejected from Radio 5, have slid into an uncomfortable afternoon slot on the wrong channel, and all over the land confused music- lovers are trying to remember the French for 'In my early seventies, actually'.

Hunting for lovely music, I found Concert Hall (World Service), where Mark Lowther was introducing a glorious recording of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. 'The acme of shapelessness,' early critics called it, 'delirium, with no trace of harmony or melody.' Even Weber thought its composer was 'ripe for the madhouse'. In fact, Beethoven was ripe for a hearing-aid. In 1812, Louis Spohr played in the orchestra for its first performance, Beethoven's last as conductor. He said that the great man would crouch very low for the quiet bits and leap to his feet shouting when it got louder. Sadly, so deaf was he by then, he got the timing wrong. But his audience, better critics than the professionals, loved it. Lowther expressed the hope that somewhere among his listeners was a lucky soul about to hear it for the first time.

The music of Abba was celebrated in Waterloo Revisited (R2). Though at the time the group was dismissed as 'relentlessly trivial' (those critics again), Terry Wogan defends them, claiming that they were the best thing that ever came out of Eurovision. It's hard to decide if he was right or not, now that the ageing super- troupers have become an undergraduate cult: my daughter knows enough about them now to go on Mastermind. They were certainly better than The Shuttleworths - Europigeon (R4), a mildly engaging if overextended joke about a man who wrote a truly dreadful song and offered it to poor, hopeless Norway as their Eurovision entry. It was painful to hear the charming politeness of the girl in Oslo answering the phone to him, having to listen to his nonsense - and strange to think that, had it not been for Abba, he might have chosen to ridicule Sweden instead.

Two plays on Radio 4 unearthed skulduggery in earlier times. The Campden Wonder lingered gloatingly over a public hanging in the 1670s. The 'wonder' of the title was, presumably, to do with the fact that the victim of a real murder, for which three people were executed, turned up alive and well some years later, but I had stopped caring. The point being made seemed to be that among our barbrous forbears, hangings were carnival events. Every choke and guttering gurgle was recreated in loving stereo. It was a real turn-off.

Much better was Gabrielle and the Gargoyles which told the story of a woman stone-

mason who, working secretly at night, caricatured her companions while creating a frieze of vices for a nobleman's chantry. York Minster received a rare credit for the sound-effects as she plunged to her death from the embrace of the angel she carved at the end. A clever and thoughtful play, it lingered in the mind, reminding us how tough it has always been to be a woman whose skills are considered inappropriate to her sex. Also, rather like William Golding's novel, The Spire, it raised questions of how posterity can conceive of the inventiveness and ambition of medieval craftsmen, whose work continues to astonish us as we wonder about their lives.

Radio 3's Greek season included Angels and Gangsters, a fascinating inquiry into modern Greek poetry. John Theocharis, a poet himself, described the effect on Greece of 400 years of Ottoman occupation. It had to leap from the Middle Ages to the 19th century without 'the floodlit bridge of Romanticism'. How well it succeeded was clear when he visited five Athenian poets and listened to them read. He described their demotic Greek as a 'beautiful, expressive language with large, open-hearted vowels and assertive, crusty consonants', and so it is. Janet Suzman read translations of Maro Stassinopoulos and Olga Vorsti, in that coolly intelligent voice of hers. Kostas Ghimosoulis, a solicitor-poet, standing in his city flat where the traffic fumes meet the cloud of descending smog, gave an arresting definition of poetry. It is like filling a tooth, he said, you seal up with something solid an empty space taken up by pain.

In the best Classic Serial (R4) for ages, the fiery young D'Artagnan (Quel age as-tu? Dix-neuf ans? Sacre Bleu]) buckled on his swash to join The Three Musketeers for an exuberant gallop and a noisy clash of steel against the forces of evil, as represented by the wily Cardinal, the sinuous Milady and the man from Meung, his face the colour of tripe.

This superb adaptation brought out all the urbanity and wit of Dumas' original. There was the King trying to discipline his heroic daredevils - 'they don't call me Louis the Just for nothing'. All for one and one for all, they offered to die a thousand deaths for him. Languidly, Louis replied: 'Only if you must, I prefer you alive.' They promise to bring Thursday morning alive for another five weeks.

Finally, I can report that Sybil Ruscoe on Five (R5) has reached the bottom of the barrel in her search for snippets of information not covered elsewhere. But without her, we might never have known of the Earlybird Threadworm Awareness Campaign. A grateful nation salutes you, Sybil.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?