This Easter, ABC Classic FM will devote daytime listening to a celebration of American music. Entitled America: Brilliant and Bold, the programming marks the centenary of legendary conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, and will air in conjunction with the station’s music for Holy Week: Passover, Passiontide and Easter.

ABC Classic FM presenters Christopher Lawrence, Martin Buzacott, Vanessa Hughes, Russell Torrance, Stephen Watkins, Greta Bradman, Jason di Rosso, Mairi Nicolson, Meena Shamaly, Damien Beaumont, Genevieve Lang and Joel Carnegie and their guests will pay tribute to great American-born composers and performers, as well as those who made it their home, in a celebratory, optimistic, triumphant, friendly and fun weekend of music.

The programming will pay homage to the great musical and cultural successes of American music and will connect to the phenomenal American-driven advances in technology that drove so much of the 20th century. It will chart the birth and development of an immigrant nation, the building of cities, and the music that emerged from that.

Guests will include Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of Leonard Bernstein, pianist Simon Tedeschi, and the Australian Film Television and Radio School’s Cameron Patrick. In addition, ABC Classic FM’s Martin Buzacott has trawled through the ABC Sound Archives to unearth extracts from interviews with major American composers, such as John Adams, Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, George Gershwin, Philip Glass, Gian Carlo Menotti and Steve Reich and Bernstein himself. These will be scheduled throughout the weekend.

ABC Classic FM will also showcase music from European composers who made America their home, such as Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Bartok and Mahler, and look at the music that contributed to the rise of Hollywood: Gershwin, John Williams, Danny Elfman, Gerry Goldsmith. It will also explore the crucial minimalist composers who came to the fore in the 20th century.

From music for film, theatre, and video games to large-scale symphonic works and opera, the innovative spirit of American-born composers and those who have called America home will be centre stage on ABC Classic FM from  March 30 to April 2.


Friday 30 March: Immigrants, Tourists, and Exiles

Immigrants and visitors to America have helped build the great American cities, spurred technological innovation, and composed some of the most audacious music of the past two centuries. Kicking off with Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9 (New World) at 9am, hear music inspired by America, including works by Stravinsky, Delius, Rachmaninov, Glanville-Hicks, Bartok, Grainger, and Korngold.

Friday 30 March: 7:30pm-midnight (Good Friday; Passover)

JS Bach: St John Passion (1724)
From 10pm: For The God Who Sings, presented by Stephen Watkins:
English composer John Joubert’s 2015 St Mark Passion, with Poulenc and Palestrina fashioning, 400 years apart, musical settings of Lamentations and Responses. The Choir of Clare College weaves in and out with the 13th-century hymn that pictures Mary’s tears over the death of her son, Stabat Mater.

Saturday 31 March: Music for the Stage

Mornings on Saturday will be dedicated to the great American tradition of music for the stage including music by Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, and Adams.

The Opera Show: American Voices

To complement ABC Classic FM’s weekend of all things American, The Opera Show presents some of the great American singers together with a selection of recent American operas.

In two excerpts from a Met Gala evening, Leontyne Price sings Mozart’s Countess from The Marriage of Figaro and Martina Arroyo sings Verdi’s Leonora from Il Trovatore. Two rising tenors making careers on the international stage are heard in roles they are currently singing: Michael Spyres sings from Donizetti’s La Favorite and Bryan Hymel is Berlioz’ Aeneas from The Trojans. Three popular American singers are heard in the trio from Handel’s Alcina – Renee Fleming, Susan Graham and Kathleen Kuhlman.

American operas featured include Andre Previn’s A Streetcar named Desire, with Renee Fleming as Blanche in a role written especially for her, and Jake Heggie’s Great Scott with Joyce DiDonato as Arden Scott, a role also written for her. Philip Glass’s Akhnaten is often revived; we’ll hear the Hymn to the Sun sung by Paul Esswood in the title role. In Bernstein’s centenary year we’ll also hear June Anderson sing Cunegonde’s Glitter and Be Gay from Candide.

Screen Sounds Brings Us a Three-Hour Special

This week’s Screen Sounds is a three-hour blockbuster special. Jason Di Rosso will take you through the history of American film music, starting with the swashbuckling romanticism of Erich Korngold in the 1930s, through Bernard Hermann’s ethereal score to The Day The Earth Stood Still, Nino Rota’s iconic music for The Godfather, Alan Silvestri’s unforgettable Back To The Future score, and some contemporary gems including The Matrix and the latest Star Wars film. There are many more ground-breaking scores to savour along the way, and in the final hour Jason will be joined by Cameron Patrick, the recently-appointed Head of Screen Music at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, who has a unique insider’s perspective on Hollywood and the business of film scoring.

Saturday 31 March: 8pm-midnight (Holy Saturday; first day of Passover)

Sofia Gubaidulina: St John Passion (2000)
Ēriks Ešenvalds: Passion and Resurrection (2005)
Felix Mendelssohn: Psalm 42 ‘As pants the hart’ (1837)
Felix Mendelssohn: Psalm 114 ‘When Israel came out of Egypt’ (1839)
Ernest Bloch: From Jewish Life (1924)
Sergei Rachmaninov: All Night Vigil (1915)

Sunday April 1 and Monday April 2: America’s Melting Pot

American music of the 20th century is marked by its openness to influences from other genres including jazz, folk music, popular music, and worship music. Explore the melting-pot of American music from 9am on Easter Sunday and Monday, including Aaron Copland’s ballet Appalachian Spring and music by Gershwin, Marsalis, Anderson, Weill, Reich, Bernstein, Herrmann, and Steiner.

Afternoons: Symphonic traditions

Composers in America innovated upon the European symphonic tradition, taking the genre to exquisite heights. Afternoons on ABC Classic FM will feature some of the best-loved American symphonic composers including Ives, Adams, Beach, Price, Piston, Schuman, Harris, Still, and Corigliano.

Night Music: Minimalism

From its avant-garde origins to its widespread use in film music and beyond, American minimalism is one of the most active musical movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Over four nights we will explore the hypnotic music of the American minimalists, including Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Sunday 1 April: 7pm-midnight (Easter Day; second day of Passover)

Leonard Bernstein: Mass (1971)
John Tavener: Fall and Resurrection (1997)
Sofia Gubaidulina: St John Easter (2002)
Felix Mendelssohn: Psalm 91 ‘He that dwells in the shelter of the Most High’ (1844)
From 11pm: For The God Who Sings, presented by Stephen Watkins:
A celebration, with Bach and the Golden Age of English church music, proffering renewal and re-birth

America: Brilliant and Bold runs from Friday March 30 to Monday April 2 on ABC Classic FM. The eight-CD box set is available from the ABC Shop Online America: Brilliant and Bold at the ABC Shop Online

Matt Dewey is Acting Content Manager, ABC Classic FM