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Program Notes - George Bernard Shaw

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
/
SC Public Radio

If you’re allergic to highly technical program notes for classical music concerts, you’re not alone. Most musicians I know find such notes boring and irrelevant, and most non-musicians find them useless, not to mention seriously off-putting. Well, it turns out it’s an old problem, as I discovered when I read a wonderful essay by George Bernard Shaw from 1896. 

“[Thirty years ago],” Shaw wrote, “the average programmist would unblushingly write, ‘Here the composer, by one of those licenses [which cannot be too carefully avoided], has abruptly introduced the dominant seventh of the key of C Major into the key of A flat, in order to recover, by a forced modulation, the key relationship proper to the second subject of a movement in F: an awkward device which he might have spared himself by simply introducing his second subject in its true key of C.’” And Shaw’s verdict on the value of such a passage? Quote: “I could teach [this style] to a poodle in two hours.”

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.