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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 14:02 GMT
Beethoven tops island hit list
Beethoven's last symphony has stayed the distance
Desert Island Discs, one of the UK's best-loved radio programmes, celebrates its 60th birthday with a gala concert on Wednesday.

One of the highlights of the concert will be Beethoven's Ode to Joy - which has been declared the most-requested piece of music over the last six decades.

The show, which first went on-air in 1942, is the world's third longest-running radio programme, after two other BBC veterans: The Daily Service (1928) and A Week in Westminster (1929).

The simple format, in which guest "castaways" choose the eight records they would take to a desert island, has now broadcast the favourite music of nearly 2,000 people.

  Click here to read the top 20 requests on Desert Island Discs

The idea came to Roy Plomley in November 1941 and he presented the first programme the following year - and for some forty years after that.

Roy Plomley
Presenter Roy Plomley in 1967 with Dame Gladys Cooper
Wednesday's concert, at London's Royal Festival Hall, is performed by a cast of castaways - including soprano Lesley Garrett, baritone Sir Thomas Allen, violinist Tasmin Little and conductor of the English National Opera Paul Daniel.

With the BBC Concert Orchestra, which have been chosen by castaways over the years, including works by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Bruch and Rachmaninov, along with a new arrangement of By The Sleepy Lagoon, Eric Coates' serenade which has introduced every Desert Island Discs interview since 1942.

They will also perform the last movement of Beethoven's Symphony No 9, the Ode to Joy.

The taste of interviewees has changed over the decades.

John Major
John Major, with Sue Lawley: The first serving PM to appear
Since the 1960s, the Beatles have been chosen more often any other composer or performer of popular music.

In classical music, the Adagio from Schubert's String Quintet in C has started to outstrip works by composers such as Beethoven, Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Mozart, and Debussy.


Of the popular song repertoire, alongside Lennon and McCartney, Cole Porter, has frequently been chosen, along with Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Some castaways want the voice, rather than a specific song or record, and Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf and Judy Garland have all been regular fixtures.

Lennon and McCartney
Lennon and McCartney - most requested recent composers
Castaways are allowed one luxury to help them through their stay.

The most common requests have been a piano - allowed on condition is it not used for shelter - alongside champagne, pen and paper, and photographs.

But actress Beryl Reid requested "a pure silk garment for floating about in" while John Cleese, wanted to take along his Monty Python co-star, Michael Palin, to share his accidental exile.

Jazz drummer Buddy Rich wanted nothing more than to see a Ferrari parked under the palm trees of the roadless island.

When presenter Roy Plomley died in 1985 his interviewing role passed first to Michael Parkinson and then to Sue Lawley.

The top 20 requests on Desert Island Discs

1. Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, last movement, Ode To Joy
2. Schubert: Quintet in C second movement, Adagio
3. Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte, trio Soave Sia Il Vento
4. Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
5. Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Beim Schlafengehen
6. Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance, March No 1
7. Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
8. Mozart: Clarinet Concerto, second movement, Adagio
9. Elgar: Cello concerto, first movement
10. Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - trio Marie Therese Hab Mir's Gelobt
11. Brahms: Violin concerto, last movement
12. Wagner: Gotterdammerung - Siegried's Funeral March
13. Puccini: Tosca, aria Vissi d'Arte
14. Verdi: Nabucco, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
15. Rachmaninov: Piano concerto No.2, last movement
16. Dvorak: New World Symphony, Largo
17. Bizet: The Pearl Fishers, duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint
18: Parry: Jerusalem
19. Beethoven: Fidelio, Prisoners' Chorus
20. Puccini: Turandot, Nessun Dorma

See also:

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