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‘What happened to classical music?’ It’s a good question, posed at the start of this promising, three-part series tracking the last century of classical composition. Initially, there seems to have been almost a hint of disdain as Strauss, Debussy and Schoenberg heralded a new era. Couldn’t music have just carried on producing pretty melodies and rousing swells of emotion? Well, no. And why should it?
Schoenberg’s is a fascinating story – not only did he offer a truly radical, often uncomfortable artistic vision, but he was also a Jew, living in early twentieth-century Vienna. John Adams describes his music as ‘ugly’, but there can be no doubting its influence. We look forward to more tales of aesthetic brinksmanship as the series continues – BBC4’s pop and rock coverage may be atrophying a touch, but this is TV with real scope and intelligence.