Careless talk costs listeners


IF YOU lie in the grass in the Vienna woods in early summer, listening carefully, the very air seems to tremble: it is that sensation that Johann Strauss wanted to evoke on the violins as his most famous waltz begins - or so Erich Kleiber told the Berlin Philharmonic when they recorded the "Blue Danube" in 1931. We listened very carefully and he was right: they did it, shimmeringly. Learning things like that, related on Tuesday by Paul Gambaccini in his second Morning Collection (R3), focuses attention on something familiar, and an old war-horse becomes a lively colt.

It is less fun to learn that when Gambaccini was born in 1949 the hit song was "Cruisin' Down the River", but, alas, you don't get one without the other. We had been prepared for his idiosyncratic style by his trailer on R4. He was suffering from first-morning nerves, he wheedled, and it would be really reassuring if we could be there with him. Re-tuning to catch this tremulous chameleon's debut in his new prime spot, we were plunged straight into his autobiography. He really will have to tone down that ego. The R3 faithful are different from the Classic FM floozies: the music must always come first, uncluttered by advertisements, traffic information and intrusive personality. Even the news sounds less alarming here than elsewhere, in the calm and capable style of the regular presenters.

Yet Gambaccini is in a breathless, portentous hurry, filling every second with anecdote, not allowing a moment for the last notes to drift decently away: to be positive, though, he played long stretches of lovely music, in interesting versions, and it's early days yet. If he can relax and give us all some breathing space, he just might be the man to boost the ratings.

If you can't be bothered to wait for this to happen, try the World Service. Their music department has good ideas, like The Musician's Musician, a series in which a star performer remembers his or her mentor. An astonishingly boyish-sounding Yehudi Menuhin was this week talking about George Enescu, who gave him free violin lessons when he was 12 in 1928. Generous, modest and incredibly talented, Enescu was, said Menuhin, "the noblest man I ever met. I never knew anyone who carried so much music in his mind immediately available and memorised." When he composed, he marked every tiny rhythmical and tonal reflection; he could make an old upright piano sound like a full orchestra; when he played the violin he appeared to improvise the moulding of each phrase so that it sounded new-minted, and his control of vibrato was unparalleled.

To hear a great genius like Menuhin expressing such homage was rather wonderful. The programme ended with a sublime 1932 recording of the two of them playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto, yoked together in perfect harmony, both controlling their vibrato like nobody's business.

Another kind of homage was paid to a previously unknown woman in Who Sings the Hero? (R4). She was a heroine, a brave young widow called Diana Jarman, who survived, with two seamen, for five weeks in an open boat after their old steamer was torpedoed in 1941. At first, this true story was told with comic-strip exaggeration - the U-boat commander slipping easily between camp German and plangent Welsh - but by the end the tragic ironies of subsequent events and the sheer power of the leading actors made you weep; Becky Hindley as Diana and David Bannerman as the sailor who loved her were superb.

Our history is overburdened with conflict. This Sceptr'd Isle (R4) has reached the Wars of the Roses, but there's no time for individual heroics. Grave warnings about the unreliability of geography preceded an impossibly complicated episode in which York was in Ireland and Warwick stood in Northampton, while Margaret, with Henry in her hands, personally conducted a siege. Pinning a red rose to my lapel, I tried to follow as Anna Massey soldiered grittily on through all this but, I'm sorry to say, she lost me somewhere on the bloodstained snow at the Battle of Towton.

Sue Gaisford interviews Nicholas Kenyon, Review, page 25.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable