Alex James's Date Night - Saturday 18 April 2015, 7pm

Alex James casts an eye over the big dates, anniversaries and ‘on this day’ events in the classical music world over the next week.

John Eliot Gardiner

On tonight's show, there are plenty of birthdays to celebrate, including those of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev , American pianist Murray Perahia and English conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner , who turns 72 on Monday. 

A self-taught musician who also played the violin, Sir John began to study conducting at the age of 15, going on to direct a performance of Vespro della Beata Vergine by Monteverdi in King's College Chapel, Cambridge in 1964, which led to the foundation of the Monteverdi Choir. In 1968 he founded the Monteverdi Orchestra, later known as the English Baroque Soloists after it changed from modern instruments to period instruments in 1977. Sir John went on to found the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) in 1989. He has recorded more than 250 albums with these and other musical ensembles. With the ORR, he has performed a wide range of Classical and Romantic music, including many works of Berlioz and all of Beethoven 's symphonies. He is also well-known for his refusal to perform the music of Wagner . "I really loathe Wagner," Sir John has said, "everything he stands for – and I don’t even like his music very much." 

Thursday 23 April sees the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564, so Alex will also be picking out a few fine examples of how the Bard’s words inspired great classical music.

GALLERY: Classical music inspired by Shakespeare >