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
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
Punchy, gut-churning and wow-inducing: Miserere by Scottish composer James MacMillan reflects deep religious faith and 1000 years of church music tradition, with music to move all of us, regardless of belief. (Listening time 16 mins)… Listen
Sometimes the best things happen by accident! Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ is famously beautiful, ethereal and transports us out of ourselves – or maybe deeper within. But the ‘best bit’, when one of the singers soars high above the others, wasn’t actually composed at all – could it be music’s greatest mistake? How did it happen…? (Listening time 20 mins: podcast 8′, Music 10-12′)… 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
American composer Amy Beach was so popular that her followers held ‘Beach Clubs’ to play and listen to her music!
Her Quartet for strings is lean and powerful, as well as being a great jump-off to the world of string quartets: a place fraught with danger for the players, where composers go to bare their souls. Take a listen and join the Beach Club! (21 mins)… Listen
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