Why is Beethoven – perhaps – the greatest composer of them all? One thing he does is expand everything – the volume goes up to 11 and down to almost nothing. Also, he cared deeply, about music and humanity. In his Coriolan Overture he makes us care about an obscure Roman general intent on [self-]destruction… and it’s fab. (14 mins)… Listen
When Tristan & Isolde take a magic love potion it’s not exactly happy ever after. Love wins in the end, it’s just they’re both dead. Passionate, overwhelming, transformative music from Richard Wagner sends them on their way and leaves us all in a state of transcendent bliss. Listening time 30 mins… Listen
Democracy and our rights, that earlier generations fought and went to prison to obtain, are fragile and always need to be looked after closely. Ethel Smyth’s life and terrific music serve as a good reminder to us all that we need to be ready to stand up and make our voices heard in order to make change happen. (19mins)… Listen
The song goes that life is a rollercoaster, baby, and few can give us all the emotional ups and downs as well as Tchaikovsky. The first part of this ride is stormy, turbulent, passionate and full of loss and yearning, as Tchaikovsky is battered by what fate and life throws at him. As the other song [almost] goes: He gets knocked down, but he gets up again! Listening time: 31 mins… Listen
I’m always a bit surprised to find myself humming bits of Ma Vlast – My Country by one of the Czech’s favourite sons. I guess I must really love it!
Feared by the Nazis, loved by the Czechs, this is the acceptable face of nationalism, and its full of great tunes and causes deep satisfaction.
Listening time 32mins
Delicate, sparkling and perhaps surprisingly touching, here are three short diversions from the various trials of modern life – written 300 years ago by Couperin and brilliantly rewritten in 2006 by Thomas Adès who takes delight in the sound of music. Listening time 20mins… Listen
Great music to mark the US Presidential hand-over! Raucous fun alongside the deep and meaningful, Three Places in New England is challenging, confusing, complex, silly and surprising music that leaves me baffled but smiling and moved too! A hundred years old but way ahead of its time from one of America’s first great composers, Charles Ives. Listening time 28mins.… Listen