Radio announcer Jim Svejda once did a classical music show examining the question, "Do composers write music that unintentionally sounds like they look?"
He also staged an interview with dead conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, who said his absence from the living would not be a problem in succeeding Herbert von Karajan as director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, "because he was still a better conductor than Karajan was alive."Svejda, 42, brings his sometimes harsh and often hilarious musical insight to radio listeners nationwide through a pair of weekly American Public Radio programs, "The Opera Box" and "The Record Shelf." He also hosts a daily classical music show on KUSC in Los Angeles.
After 10 years at the station, he has become a valuable property.
"He is just what radio thrives on, and that is a real radio personality," said station President Wallace A. Smith. "He's extremely quirky."
In his wry delivery that sounds a bit like a lockjawed, satin-voiced Edward G. Robinson, Svejda explores historical recordings, recent releases, the little-known, the underappreciated and, indeed, the quirky.
A piece on fat singers was described by Svejda in the program guide as, "There's More of Them to Love: A High-Cholesterol Tribute to the Century's Largest Singers." A show on operatic ingenues was called, "Not Much Upstairs, But What a Staircase."
In another program, Svejda settled on Bruckner as the ugliest composer: "a dirty golfball, which, when it smiled, which wasn't often, suggested a badly opened beer can."
Underlying his approach seem to be two principles: decry mediocrity and never sanctify the art.
"Classical music is human," he said in a recent interview from KUSC. "You read Mozart's letters and they are unpublishable."
Svejda's opinions are publishable, though maybe just barely. His book listing favorite recordings, "The Record Shelf Guide," was published last year.
Of composer Philip Glass, he writes: "a very nice man who has gotten very rich not by underestimating,