Sundays, 9-10pm. Acclaimed singer and broadcaster Catherine Bott covers everything you ever wanted to know about classical music. It's one of the biggest non-fiction series in the history of British radio. Text 61812, tweet @ClassicFM or email using the form below.
Catherine Bott is shining the spotlight on every area of classical music, answering such questions as "What exactly does a conductor do?", "Was Mozart really the genius everyone makes him out to be?", and "How did Beethoven manage to compose when he was deaf?"
Now in its sixth successful year and 300 episodes later, it's one of the biggest non-fiction series in the history of British radio.
If you have a question or suggestion for a topic to be addressed by Catherine on the show, do contact her using the form below.
For the superstitious among us, ‘the curse of the ninth’ has us listening with bated breath. So many great composers managed only to write nine symphonies before meeting their fate, provoking Arnold Schoenberg to deduce that “It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”
Tonight, Catherine Bott explores both the music and the stories behind some of those great pieces written at the end of their composer’s life. Join her to hear how Beethoven, then completely deaf, composed his Symphony No.9, and how Vaughan Williams’ sudden death meant that his ninth symphony unavoidably became his last.
Sunday 24 November
Catherine Bott dedicates tonight’s programme to the try-harders: those that didn't give up, had false starts, or suffered a whole host of setbacks.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the passing of Florence Foster Jenkins, an amateur soprano labelled as “the world's worst opera singer”. But her story of perseverance, dedication and love for music has stayed with us, even becoming the basis of the 2016 film Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep. Along with music from that very film, Catherine sheds light on the stories of fellow musicians who, at one point or another, hit a bump in the road.
The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel's Messiah, for example, helped the composer bounce back from illness. We’ll also hear Rachmaninov's Symphony No.1, the premiere of which he called “the most agonising hour of my life”; and a work by a composer who dedicated himself to music, even resorting to using a finger-stretching device to improve his piano playing.
Sunday 1 December
With so many premieres, momentous births, deaths, and historic events having taken place in the month of December, tonight’s edition of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Classical Music explores the range of musical anniversaries that fall over the next 31 days.
It’s the month that Beethoven's hosted his mammoth four-hour long concert, that the opera house La Fenice burned down in Venice, and that the violin-maker Antonio Stradivari passed away. Along with the history, we'll hear one of Nino Rota's most famous themes from The Godfather, Mozart’s Requiem, and Beethoven’s famous Symphony No.6 (‘Pastoral’).
Sunday 8 December
As we begin to treat ourselves to Christmas chocolates and mince pies, Catherine Bott presents an hour of music by a selection of over-indulgent composers.
Handel, who was known to order enough dinner for three people, opens the programme with the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Rossini, on the other hand, had an appetite big enough to rival Handel’s and even has a dish named after him: the Tournedos Rossini. Tonight, we hear his overture to La Cenerentola.
Beethoven’s music is often considered to be a vehicle for a self-indulgent display of his personal difficulties and mood swings, so Catherine also features one of the most extravagant pieces in the repertoire: his Piano Concerto No.5.
Sunday 15 December
Join Catherine for a snow-sprinkled evening of discovery on Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Classical Music, as she answers a seasonal question: what is the ‘sound’ of Christmas?
From the bells-and-whistles of the Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, to Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve Suite, and a recording of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Catherine explores how this wonderful music puts us in the Christmas spirit.