This four-part series, presented by composer Howard Goodall, shows that great pieces of music are not freak accidents of genius but the direct products of their time, place, culture and politics.
In 1937, Fascism gripped Europe and Stalin's terror was at its height. There, composers had to square their consciences with the artistic requirements of totalitarian regimes. In Germany, the music of Kurt Weill was banned because he was Jewish, modern and left wing. While the Nazis were busy banning jazz, in the US, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Billie Holiday were showing it to be the undisputed sound of the moment. And Shostakovich's towering 'Fifth Symphony' was being written at the height of Stalinist oppression.
The key aims of this programme are to:
* introduce the viewer to the political and social contexts during the 1930s including the rise of Fascism in Germany under Hitler, and the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union
* examine the work of two Soviet composers – Dmitri Shostakovitch and Sergei Prokofiev – working in the Soviet Union during the 1930s
* explore the developments in harmonic writing at the beginning of the twentieth century and the subsequent experimentation with atonality
* examine the work of Kurt Weill, and in particular 'The Threepenny Opera'
* contrast the plight of Jewish artists and musicians in Germany with that of 'accepted' composers in the Third Reich such as Richard Strauss
* examine the developments in music in America during the 1930s, and in particular the rise in popularity of jazz