Finding a good classical radio show on the internet waves is not that easy, except on national radio stations like Klara (Belgium) or BBC 3 (UK). So when we first heard the Tafelmusik show on NTS Radio by Francesco Fusaro we were immediately hooked & triggered and we contacted Francesco for a guest mix on We Are Various. And luckily for us he took the time to answer a few questions. Enjoy!

WAV: You’re hosting the excellent Tafelmusik show on NTS Radio with a varied selection of baroque, classical & contemporary music. Can you tell us a bit on how long you’ve been doing it & how it all started?

FF: First thing first, thank you for listening and enjoying my show! I’ve been hosting it since January 2017. Back in December 2016, I had just co-launched a classical and contemporary music series, 19’40”, with Enrico Gabrielli and Sebastiano De Gennaro. I thought the first release, dedicated to 10 chamber music versions of Italian underground alt-rock songs (Progetto Generativo) could be of interest to some NTS Radio hosts, so I got in touch and attached to my email a short mixtape with some music that inspired that record. They got back to me and said they were looking for someone to run a classical music radio show. We agreed on a 1-hour guest slot to test it out, and then they offered me a 2-hour monthly residency. As I was assigned a slot at lunch time, I decided the show should be called Tafelmusik, which (in modern terms) is a sub-genre of the Baroque repertoire that’s been written to soundtrack feasts and banquets. Telemann is the most famous composer associated with it, and his music usually kicks off the show. ‘

WAV: You live in London for the moment but as your name suggests, you have Italian roots. Did these roots and background somehow influence your musical style & taste?

FF: ‘I guess my Italian roots definitely have an influence on my music selection and taste, as I have quite a favourable eye for the repertoire of my country. In general, I try and avoid to be too “London-centric”, as I think what happens in London usually gets enough exposure by itself. That said, I am blessed by being able to play the music I select for Tafelmusik in the Gillette Square studio, which couldn’t be more representative of its neighbourhood, Dalston, in the the North of the city. I still remember my guest slot in January 2017: it was an oddly warm day, and the studio window was open. The sounds of skateboarders running up and down the square, of people grilling food in the neighbouring shack, and local punters chatting in the background was mixing in with the music by Ligeti, Monteverdi and Brahms. I thought to myself: “This is what makes London so special’. 

WAV: The music played in the Tafelmusik shows is a genre that is not that often programmed on radio stations, except on the specialised networks of course. Do you feel it as a strength cause you have your own unique niche or do you think that the interest in this genre could expand in the future?

FF: “You could say that I am a niche in a niche: I play classical music (first niche) on a radio station that definitely tends to cater to the more curious ears (second niche). This is exactly why I think NTS is the perfect platform for what I play: I still present music that can be found on more traditional, dedicated channels, but because it’s NTS, people stop by and listen to it with a more open mind. They may randomly tune in just to see what’s on the radio, and bump into some Baroque music. This is something that also informs the way I program the show: I like to think of it as a normal DJ set, where compositions are part of a bigger narrative, and treated as its fundamental pieces. That approach is definitely far from the traditional classical music radio programming, where movements of a symphony are (rightly) treated as inseparable from the rest of the composition, so you have to listen to the whole thing to let it get to the point. 

WAV: You also co-run a classical music recording series 19’40’, can you tell us something about that? 

FF: “As I mentioned before, in 2016 I co-founded 19’40” with my two musician friends Enrico and Sebastiano. They come from the conservatory but have worked extensively with other music genres, and they wanted a space of theirs to share their classical-music influenced output. They had a strong vision from the very beginning: a collection of releases designed around a consistent set of compositions, with a clearly identifiable graphic design (which follows, in its sequence of black and white CD packages, the octaves of the piano), inspired by those “masterpieces of classical music” series on vinyl from the heydays of the format. This is the reason why we went for the subscription model: you get 3 records per year at home, with a clear, pre-planned release schedule. We now have 11 albums people can browse through, before they decide to commit to a subscription!”

WAV: For the moment we’re living in difficult times with the current health crisis, but just before the lockdown it looked like you had an incredible busy schedule. You just had a new residency at Brilliant Corners, you manage MFZ records & you also do photographic work as an amateur. How do you spend your time these days & do you see positive things in it?

FF:” I can afford quite a romantic, privileged narrative around my lockdown: I’ve been working from home in a spacious house since the 13th of March, and don’t miss much of my “previous life”, except for my live broadcasting on NTS, some social contact (including concerts and art exhibitions) and the opportunity to travel, and go back home to see my family. This is not to discount how the terrible situation in Italy and the UK have impacted me on an emotional and psychological level, particularly in the first month: I just couldn’t prevent myself from scrolling my Twitter feed and my WhatsApp groups, day in and day out. I found a bit of rest in more music-making and book reading. Culture and art is often where my mind finds some distraction. I tried to avoid the usual neoliberalist traps, the “Make the most of your day”, “How to be productive at home”, “Take on new hobbies during the pandemic”… I think for some people, this must have been an invaluable period of self-reflection. It’s definitely been for me. ” 

WAV: You told me you’ve been to Belgium before and visited Antwerp. To finish this small Q&A, can you share with us a favourite Belgian band or track? 

FF: “I love Belgium and will definitely come back when all of this is over! I may sound trite, but I cannot but pickup Soulwax / 2manydjs here. I admire their incredible music knowledge and tongue-in-cheek approach to DJing. As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 has had a great impact on my idea of what a DJ should do, and is one of the greatest mixtapes that’s ever been made, together with that other underrated gem that is The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One by The Prodigy.”

WAV:  Thank you so much for this nice interview and we really hope you can come over once again to Antwerp so we can show you the city. 

(Interview by Fred Nasen (WAV))