Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Desert Island Discs has been

on BBC radio since 1942. I used to hear it occasionally when I was living in London and I doubt if the tried and proven format has changed much. It consists of an interview with a "castaway" who must choose eight pieces of music to take with them. From memory I believe they were also allowed to choose a "luxury" item. Naturally the castaways are people who are, for some reason, noteworthy.
The discs they choose are noteworthy too. I remember them interviewing PL Travers, author of Mary Poppins, she chose no music at all. All her discs were the spoken word. However most people choose eight pieces of music and it is those choices I find interesting. The BBC Press Office recently released a list of the most popular and it makes very interesting reading indeed.
Top of the list is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. (If you are not a classical music afficionado this is the one in DMinor which ends with the choral movement. It is possibly one of the most powerful pieces of music ever written.) Yes, I might choose that.
The second most popular choice was the Piano Concerto no 2 in CMinor by Rachmaninoff. I know it but I would not choose it. Nor would I choose Schubert's String Quintet in CMajor, the third most popular choice.
Beethoven appears again on the list in fourth place - the Symphony no 6 in FMajor ("Pastoral") and then Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" march. Then yes, Beethoven again - this time the 5th Piano Concerto, more Elgar in the form of the Enigma Variations and, lastly, Beethoven's Symphony no 7 in A major.
While the most popular composer overall is Mozart, Beethoven and Bach come second and third (followed by Schubert, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Puccini). I wonder where Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi come? I suspect it may be not too far down the page. Of the eight non-classical pieces most frequently chosen John Lennon's "Imagine" comes in at number eight. It is by far the most modern of the pieces chosen, perhaps reflecting the age of the castaways chosen.
I wonder though if it might be more than that? Beethoven appears four times in the most popular eight. Yes, I suppose this could be dismissed as "well these are the pieces people know the best" but I would have thought certain pieces of Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi were better known.
What would you choose? I will give my choices some thought but please tell me yours. You may have eight - oh and the luxury item?


Anonymous said...

It is now possible to listen to all the programs. I so enjoyed the interview with Hugh Pennington and his choices.

LMcC (a regular reader and occasional unsuccessful commentator)

Christine said...

They're about to do a few shows with ordinary people rather than celebs. They're asking for contributions.

Miriam Drori said...

That would take a lot of thinking about, but I think the pieces would all remind me of different episodes in my life. Luxury item: computer. I couldn't do without it.