136. Where the walls of heaven are thin as a curtain: Simon Clark on Talbot, Path of Miracles

An epic and spiritual adventure for choir, Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles captures the hope, the expectation and the moments of overwhelm (both positive and negative) of travellers on the ancient and still popular pilgrimage trail the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James).

Simon Clark, scientist, author and singer joins me to share his passion for the piece and guide us on a journey of musical and maybe spiritual fulfilment! Listening time: podcast 24 mins, music 62’… Listen

135. Uplifting melancholy and passionate languor: Granados Spanish Dances

Music that seems to conjure all the tastes, smells and senses of Spain – or my expectations of them (as someone who’s hardly been there): Spanish dances for piano by Enrique Granados. Perfect music if you just want to feel warmer, but it’s also an opportunity to bask (Basque? [sorry]) in some gloriously wistful melancholy that seems to underpin all six of these pieces. Somehow it’s not a melancholy that makes one feel sad – it seems as uplifting and nourishing as the warm sun on a cold winter’s day. Listening time: podcast 12 mins; music 25′.… Listen

134. The sound of the solar system? Kepler: Harmony of the World

An extraordinary, ambitious, blend of art and science, Johanes Kepler’s Harmony of the World is a 17th century attempt to understand what the then known universe sounded like – on a planetary level! In the 1970s, using the latest technology professors Willie Ruff and John Rodgers were able to make Kepler’s Harmony into music – an extended piece of electronica, hypnotic and thought provoking. (25’+ listening time)… Listen

125. Ain’t no mountain high enough: Strauss, Alpine Symphony

With the wonders of our imagination and some great music to help, all things are possible – so let’s enjoy the views from the top of a mountain: leaving the house (or even getting out of bed) is entirely optional. Richard Strauss takes us over the top (in every sense) in his epic, excessive, exuberant Alpine Symphony, with great views and plenty of thrills but also moments that inspire deeper contemplation on the glories of nature. It’s a trip you don’t want to miss. Listening time 62mins.… Listen

124. Heading North by Southwest with Willie Ruff: Strayhorn, Suite for The Duo

Brilliant and meaningful, North by Southwest may have been the initial name for Billy Strayhorn’s Suite for The Duo, a brilliant, late work for horn and piano: it’s a title that suggests confusion and conflicting ideas about the dying composers direction of travel. It’s a great piece: virtuosic but raw and written with a total understanding of both horn and piano and what they can do.
It’s a longer episode than normal because (amazingly) I was able to speak with Willie Ruff, the horn play for whom it was written. Willie, now in his nineties, joined me from his home in Alabama and he talked about his life and career, the Mitchell-Ruff duo, Strayhorn and how Suite for The Duo came to life. (37 mins)
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109. When personal pain becomes universal: Shostakovich String Quartet No.8

How is it that when an artist shares their pain we can all feel it? And how does listening to music full of suffering make us feel better? I don’t know how or why, but I know that it does. Dmitri Shostakovich knew all about war, loss, and suffering. His 8th string quartet is desperate but defiant and deeply moving, bleak but often beautiful and whilst it doesn’t provide any answers it somehow gives consolation to us all. Listening time 28 mins… Listen