Sunday, May 17, 2009

From the Top and Classical Destinations

I have developed the habit for the last couple of months of watching a couple of interesting shows featuring classical music on Sunday nights on PBS. (This is the kind of thing PBS was supposed to have been created to do on the theory that commercial networks never would, but it has done so poorly at best. PBS, not surprisingly, appeals to middlebrow baby-boomers; just look at what kind of music it features during pledge drives. I have nothing against '60s rock'n'roll or Julie Andrews or Josh Groban or Sinatra retrospectives, but they ain't highbrow. Aside from the occasional opera or NY Phil concert, PBS starves us musical highbrows.)

Rant over. One consistently delightful program is "From the Top from Carnegie Hall," which features young people performing classical music and generally doing so brilliantly. I'm so pleased to see so many young people taking classical music seriously. It almost makes me believe that it won't die in the next generation or so.

"Classical Destinations" is sort of a musical travelogue to various cities in Europe where great composers lived or worked -- Salzbug, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Venice, etc. It's a bit superficial, especially in the generally breathless descriptions of the composers, but the scenery is terrific and there's always some pretty decent music and nice interiors of concert halls. British actor Simon Callow is not too annoying. You can watch programs online here.

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