Rainer Hersch reflects on the ups and downs of working with the BBC – the shows, the interviews and more…
Having a career in radio is a very British phenomenon and all thanks to the BBC for what it is and what it stands for. But working for the Beeb means terrible pay and awful conditions yet always is always interesting and fun. In my case, it has ranged from playing an Italian hairdresser in a sitcom with Catherine Tate to discussing 16th Century settings of the Latin Mass with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
I spent one whole 45-minute documentary ‘preparing’ a piano – attaching assorted paperclips and screws to the strings to change the sound of the notes. Last year, for my show about the Blue Danube Waltz I found myself singing with two Chinese tourists in Vienna while standing by the famous golden statue of Johann Strauss (they thought it was Mozart).
And then there have been the interviews…
People I couldn’t otherwise hope to meet who were drawn to my questioning merely by dint of the fact by so doing we would both get our dulcet tones on the airwaves.
In 1999 I spent an afternoon with Yehudi Menuhin at his flat in Belgravia – actually, I think the experience probably killed him off because he went to the great concert hall in the sky a couple of months later. In preparation, I read his autobiography – all 490 ruddy pages of it. I remember my producer and I being shown up to his living room and nosing round his collection of photos (Menuhin with Churchill, Menuhin with Nehru, Menuhin with God Almighty – God with a big grin on His face looking a bit star-struck) when he suddenly just appeared behind us. Slightly shrunken with age and with a particularly beaky nose, the episode felt like meeting Nosferatu.
Well, on March 8th this year I am going to achieve another radio ambition – I am conducting and hosting Friday Night Is Music Night on BBC Radio 2. FNIMN is the world’s longest running live orchestral music programme – so that is a hell of a reputation to wreck. I’ll be working with the BBC Concert Orchestra, a choir and soloists, including my mate Sam Pearce playing a Mozart Horn Concerto on a hosepipe (ha!).
So, after twenty years of slaving for the Aunty, what’s new? Not much. Pay’s rubbish, conditions terrible but definitely a hell of a lot of fun.