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Music

Private Passions

Updated 9 days ago

Music
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Michael Berkeley's guests share their musical passions and reveal which pieces bring them joy and sustain them through hard times.

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Michael Berkeley's guests share their musical passions and reveal which pieces bring them joy and sustain them through hard times.

iTunes Ratings

14 Ratings
Average Ratings
8
2
2
1
1

What a wonderful discovery

By LCSD - Jul 02 2013
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Intimate, interesting, a special and delightful interview process unlike any other I've experienced. Not your average one-on-one: the interviewer actually listens to his guest and allows them to complete an entire thought! Highly recommended.

Private Passions

By BMaryMcGraw - Jul 02 2013
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This is a superb podcast! I am usually left wanting a few more minutes with the guests, which is so much better than become tired of one's voice in the midst of a long interview.

iTunes Ratings

14 Ratings
Average Ratings
8
2
2
1
1

What a wonderful discovery

By LCSD - Jul 02 2013
Read more
Intimate, interesting, a special and delightful interview process unlike any other I've experienced. Not your average one-on-one: the interviewer actually listens to his guest and allows them to complete an entire thought! Highly recommended.

Private Passions

By BMaryMcGraw - Jul 02 2013
Read more
This is a superb podcast! I am usually left wanting a few more minutes with the guests, which is so much better than become tired of one's voice in the midst of a long interview.
Cover image of Private Passions

Private Passions

Latest release on May 27, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 9 days ago

Rank #1: Jane Goodall

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Jane Goodall was only twenty-four when in she went to live among the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and she went on to spend more than 55 years there. She has done more than anyone else to transform our understanding of chimpanzees - and beyond that, her work has raised questions about how we treat these highly intelligent primates, and indeed about the rights of all animals. Now in her early eighties, she's on an extraordinary mission travelling round the world to protect chimpanzees from extinction.

During a rare stay in Britain, Jane Goodall talks to Michael Berkeley about her life and ground-breaking discoveries. She reveals that the chimpanzees she lived with also had a darker side, and were sometimes violent, stamping on her. She remembers difficult times after the kidnapping of some of her workers, and the death of her second husband - and how music sustained her, and transformed her view of the world.

Music choices include Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Richard Burton reading the Dylan Thomas classic "Under Milk Wood'. She also introduces some very excited chimpanzee speech, and speculates about what kind of music chimpanzees enjoy.

May 14 2017

32mins

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Rank #2: John Finnemore

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John Finnemore is one of our most successful comedy writers and performers. A star turn in Miranda as the doting husband Chris, he writes and stars in the award-winning Radio 4 sitcom Cabin Pressure, and he's made two series of the Radio 4 sketch show Souvenir Programme. He regularly appears on The Now Show, The Unbelievable Truth and The News Quiz. And apart from his own shows, he also writes for other comedians such as Mitchell and Webb.

John reveals to Michael Berkeley his secret of comedy inspiration, his love of performing, and his struggle with insomnia. His choices include Beethoven, Flanders and Swann, and Chopin: the music that means most to him, the music that makes him laugh - and the music that helps him sleep.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

Mar 09 2014

35mins

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Rank #3: Andrew Solomon

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Andrew Solomon is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia Medical Centre in New York, and a writer with a wide-ranging interest in families. He spent ten years talking to parents who faced extraordinary challenges, because their children had turned out so very different from them: either through disabilities, or because they were musical prodigies - or because they had committed serious crimes. The resulting book, "Far From the Tree - Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" has won many awards, and millions of people have watched Solomon's TED talks. Solomon first made an impact with another prize-winning book, about depression, "The Noonday Demon", a moving account of his own illness.

In Private Passions, Andrew Solomon talks to Michael Berkeley about how both books are grounded in his own experience; he had a hard time growing up, and being accepted by his parents - and his peers - as gay. He reveals that at one point he was so depressed that he couldn't get out of bed, and thought he'd had a stroke. It was his father's love and care which saved him. He talks too about how he met his husband, and became a father himself - albeit as part of a marvellously complex and unconventional family.

Music choices include Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro"; Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier"; Bryn Terfel singing Vaughan Williams's "Songs of Travel"; Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto, and love songs by Reynaldo Hahn, Strauss and Britten.

Jun 19 2016

36mins

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Rank #4: Miles Jupp

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Miles Jupp burst onto the comedy scene when he won the 'So You Think You're Funny' contest at the Edinburgh Festival at the age of just twenty-one. He'd already, as an undergraduate, won the part of Archie the Inventor in the hugely popular children's television show Balamory, but he eventually tired of wearing a pink kilt. Since then he has established himself on the comedy circuit, and on radio and television in panel shows including Have I Got News for You, and comedies such as The Thick of It and Rev, where he plays Nigel, the disapproving lay reader, who thinks he should be running the church. He is usually to be found sending himself up as a tweedy, middle class young fogey. As he joked on a chatshow: "I'm privileged. Not just to be here but in general."

Miles talks to Michael Berkeley about the joys of cricket, the pleasures of belting out a good tune and the legacy of an intensely musical childhood, reflected in his choices of music by Geoffrey Burgon, Chopin and Verdi.

Produced by Jane Greenwood.
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

To hear previous episodes of Private Passions, please visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/r3pp/all.

Aug 10 2014

35mins

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Rank #5: Richard Powers

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As part of Radio 3’s celebration of forests this autumn, Michael Berkeley’s guest is the American novelist Richard Powers. His latest novel, The Overstory, is his twelfth, and it’s a monumental work which was entirely inspired by trees.

It all started when Powers was teaching in California, and visited the giant redwoods there. That encounter amounted he says to “a religious conversion”. He realised he’d been blind to these amazing creatures all his life. So, to make up for lost time, in his new Booker long-listed novel he gives trees a voice:

"A woman sits on the ground, leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back, as hard as life. Its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things, in words before words."

Inspired by his passion for trees, Richard Powers has now moved to live in the forests of the Smoky Mountains which run along the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

"In 15 to 20 minutes, I can be up and walking in these forests that are recovering from a century-and-a-half of logging and see the way that nature persists and transforms and perseveres."

On a brief trip to London, he looks back over a thirty-year writing career in which each novel is more audacious than the last. But one theme runs through all his writing: the power of music, and Powers plays the cello, guitar, clarinet and saxophone. His music choices include Dowland’s “Time Stands Still”, Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4, Bach’s Cantata BWV 100, and Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3
Produced by Elizabeth Burke

Oct 21 2018

33mins

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Rank #6: Chilly Gonzales

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Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales is on a mission - to get us all playing. His piano books and online pop music masterclasses attract hundreds of thousands of hits. Classically trained, he has one of the least orthodox careers in recent music: he made his name in rap, electronica and pop, becoming a successful songwriter and producer for the likes of the rapper Drake and the band Daft Punk. More recently he has been composing for piano and now for strings as well. He has a mission to break down the barrier between art and entertainment, and above all, a simple, overriding passion for music.

His stage shows - both in concert halls and in less conventional places such as old Cold-War German bunkers - are pretty dazzling affairs, and he appears dressed like a matinee idol in a silk robe and slippers.

Chilly chooses music by Mahler, Michael Nyman and Scarlatti, and songs from Fauré, Dionne Warwick and Drake.

He talks to Michael about musical genius, the art of rapping, and above all the endless possibilities and joy he finds in the piano.

Produced by Jane Greenwood
A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Dec 27 2015

33mins

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Rank #7: Michael Sheen

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Michael Sheen is famous for playing real people on screen - from Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams to Brian Clough and David Frost. And it was playing another real person - but this time on stage - that formed a turning point in his relationship with classical music. This person was Mozart, in the play Amadeus, and Michael has chosen part of Mozart's Requiem, used in that production.

His other choices include music by Lisa Gerrard and Arvo Pärt and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds starring Richard Burton, who shares a home town with Michael. He tells Michael Berkeley about his recent return home to Port Talbot to work for three years on a marathon staging of The Passion, which lasted for 72 hours and involved a cast of 1000, mostly local, people.

Jan 26 2014

34mins

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Rank #8: Sebastian Barry

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Sebastian Barry's great-grand-father was a traditional Irish musician, who played on the wooden flute and piccolo. His mother was an actress at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; his aunt Mary O'Hara had a huge career as a singer and harpist with her own series on the BBC. Little surprise then that Sebastian Barry's writing is musical in the widest sense; full of the rich music of everyday speech. It's an impressive body of work: fourteen plays, two volumes of poetry, and nine novels. Two of his novels, "The Secret Scripture" and the latest, "Days Without End", have won the coveted Costa Book of the Year prize. When he thanked the judges earlier this year, Barry declared: "You have made me crazy happy from the top of my head to my toes in a way that is a little bit improper at sixty-one."

In Private Passions, Sebastian Barry talks to Michael Berkeley about the "gaps" in Irish history he has explored in his books: areas which are touchy, taboo, and perhaps deliberately forgotten now, such as the fate of those who were Catholic, but loyal to Britain. He reveals too that his latest novel, a love story between two young soldiers, was inspired by his son coming out as gay.

Music choices include Bruch's Violin Concerto; Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus"; Alfred Deller singing "Three Ravens"; Bach's Cello Suites; and his aunt Mary O'Hara singing a song written by Sebastian Barry's own mother.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Sep 10 2017

35mins

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Rank #9: Jancis Robinson

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In her forty-year career writing and broadcasting about wine, Jancis Robinson has probably done more than anyone else to make wine an accessible and joyous part of our lives, and to strip away a great deal of the pretensions that used to surround it. But she's also one of our leading scholars of wine, and the fourth edition of the book she describes as her 'fourth child', a mammoth updating of her nearly 1000-page-long Oxford Companion to Wine, is about to be published next month. She talks to Michael Berkeley about her love of opera, the excitement of tasting for the Queen, and the great pleasures of wine and music. Her choices include music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Handel and a sweet English folk song. Producer: Jane Greenwood A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3

First broadcast in August 2015.

Aug 30 2015

36mins

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Rank #10: Alison Goldfrapp

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As part of the BBC's Classical Voice season, Michael Berkeley's guest is singer Alison Goldfrapp.

Alison Goldfrapp burst onto the music scene fifteen years ago, as lead singer in the duo Goldfrapp with the debut album Felt Mountain. Rock critics reached for adjectives such as 'lush', 'symphonic', 'epic'. Since Felt Mountain there have been five more hit albums, moving across pop, dance, electronic music - but each featuring the same extraordinary voice. Alongside the six gold albums, Goldfrapp also composed the soundtrack for the John Lennon film, Nowhere Boy, and the music for the recent Medea, starring Helen McCrory, at the National Theatre.

In Private Passions, Alison Goldfrapp talks to Michael Berkeley about finding her voice, and about the childhood that inspired her. Her father ('a closet hippy') used to take all six children out into the Hampshire woods, and make them sit still and listen, for hours; when there was a full moon he would drive them to the sea, for a night swim. The first time Goldfrapp heard her own voice soar was as a schoolgirl at the Alton Convent School in Hampshire, and encouraged by the nuns, she sang higher and higher until she felt a kind of 'buzzing' in her head: an unforgettable experience.

Goldfrapp chooses music which features a choir of extraordinary women's voices, the Bulgarian State Radio female choir, and Jessye Norman singing Fruhling from Strauss's Four Last Songs. She also chooses Atmospheres by Gyorgy Ligeti - music she finds very frightening - and celebrates both Mahler, and Ennio Morricone's film music, especially his score to an erotic thriller from 1969, Dirty Angels. And she reveals the music her partner Lisa Gunning sends her to listen to when they're apart.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Jun 21 2015

34mins

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Rank #11: Geoff Dyer

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Geoff Dyer is a writer who joyously defies categorisation. The winner of many literary prizes, and frequently described as one of the most original writers of his generation, he surprises at every turn with his blending of fiction and non-fiction, and with his subjects, which range through travel, film, sex, photography, war, romance - and music.

The book that cemented his reputation, in 1991, was about jazz - with the memorable title But Beautiful. It's a series of fictional vignettes of musicians from the great age of American jazz, including Bud Powell, Chet Baker and Thelonious Monk.

Geoff talks to Michael Berkeley about how his life-long passion for jazz has taken him on a musical journey from Miles Davis, to Keith Jarrett playing Bach, and Indian classical music - and he explains why Beethoven's Late Quartets appeal so strongly to a lover of jazz.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Nov 13 2016

32mins

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Rank #12: Vesna Goldsworthy

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Thirty years ago, Vesna Goldsworthy fell in love with a young Englishman she met at a summer school in Bulgaria; she moved to England to be with him, much to the disapproval of her parents, arriving in London in 1986. Since then, she's established a reputation as a writer of great wit and originality: with her memoir, Chernobyl Strawberries; with her poetry; and in 2015 with her first novel, Gorsky, which became a best-seller and which was serialized on Radio 4. Vesna Goldsworthy is also a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

In Private Passions, Vesna Goldsworthy talks to Michael Berkeley about being brought up in Belgrade during the Communist regime. The popular idea is of an era which was grey and philistine - but in fact there was a huge amount of classical music around. And when she moved to England, her friends and family were horrified. They asked, "How could you move to a country where there is no music"? She reveals why she started writing a memoir of her Serbian childhood: because her doctors told her she was dying of cancer, and she wanted to leave a record for her son. Happily, the cancer was cured, but it taught her a lifelong lesson: not to take life too seriously.

Vesna Goldsworthy's music choices include the Romanian-Serbian composer Ion Iovanovici; an Orthodox address to the Virgin by Divna Ljubojevic; the Sephardic song, "Adio Querida", by Yasmin Levy; and a popular Russian song from the Second World War. She ends with Purcell, a composer she discovered only after she moved to a country "with no music".

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Oct 29 2017

37mins

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Rank #13: Paul Cartledge

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If you want to know how to wield a Spartan spear, or whether Athens really was the cradle of democracy - or indeed what ancient Greek music might have sounded like, Paul Cartledge is the man to go to.

He has probably done more than anyone else in the past three decades to advance knowledge of ancient Greek culture - both in academic circles and in the public arena. He was until very recently the first A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge, a chair founded to study a thousand years of Greek cultural achievements and to highlight their lasting influence on society today.

Paul talks to Michael Berkeley about why ancient history is relevant to us today; why the myths of the classical world have been such an enduring inspiration for composers; why democracy would work better without political parties; and the pitfalls of being a historical advisor to Hollywood.

And Paul shares with Michael his passion for music that stretches back to his childhood, including Brahms, Bach, Rossini, Stravinsky - and Bob Dylan.

Producer: Jane Greenwood

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Jan 18 2015

32mins

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Rank #14: Anne Sebba

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Michael Berkeley's guest is Anne Sebba, the best-selling biographer of iconic women including Wallis Simpson, Winston Churchill's mother Jennie, Laura Ashley, and Mother Teresa.

Her most recent book tells the stories of the women of Paris in the 1940s. She follows the lives of housewives, Resistance fighters, shop girls, prostitutes and celebrities, all the time examining the big, small - and often impossible - choices people have to make in wartime. And we hear part of an operetta composed by one of these women, imprisoned by the Nazis at Ravensbruck.

Anne tells Michael about her controversial biography of Wallis Simpson in which she claims that we should have more understanding of her situation and more admiration for her as a person - and she argues that Wallis married Edward with great reluctance.

We hear Artur Rubinstein playing Rachmaninov, which brings back memories for Anne of interviewing him when she was a young journalist, and she chooses music by Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Verdi. A passionate advocate for the celebration of women's lives and talents, Anne chooses performances by Robyn Archer, Maria Callas and Margaret Fingerhut.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Apr 22 2018

33mins

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Rank #15: Christopher Ricks

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Michael Berkeley's guest is the distinguished scholar Sir Christopher Ricks, who was described by W.H. Auden as 'the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding.' He has championed the work of new poets including Seamus Heaney and Christopher Hill, and in book after book over 50 years he has thrown new light on the great poets of the past: Milton, Keats, Tennyson, T.S. Eliot. He has been the Oxford Professor of Poetry, and Professor of English at Cambridge; he is now Professor of the Humanities at Boston University. Outside the university, he's probably best known for two driving passions - for T.S. Eliot and (more controversially) for Bob Dylan. His new edition of Eliot's poems comes out this month: it's been several years in the making, and is the first complete edition of Eliot's poetry ever published.

For Private Passions, he has compiled a fascinating playlist of music, including musical settings of great poetry, and some Bob Dylan naturally. And there's an overall theme - it's a meditation on youth and age. Composers include Holst, Beethoven, Haydn, Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, and Prince Albert.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Nov 29 2015

34mins

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Rank #16: Chris Hadfield

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Chris Hadfield has described going into space as 'strapping yourself on top of what is essentially a large bomb'. He is one of the world's most respected astronauts, and his career has included Space Shuttle flights and helping to build the Mir Space Station, as well as serving as Director of NASA's operations in Russia and as Commander of the International Space Station during his final five-month mission. If that wasn't enough he's also a bestselling author and an accomplished musician - indeed he plays in an all-astronaut band. His cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity - which he recorded while orbiting the earth on the Space Station at over 17,000 miles an hour - has had more than 33 million Internet hits.

Chris talks to Michael Berkeley about his route to the stars, about overcoming fear and extreme danger - and the difficulties of playing a guitar in zero gravity.
He chooses music by Strauss, Rossini and Hans Zimmer, which he associates with particular space missions. He talks about his admiration for William Herschel, the eighteenth-century astronomer and composer. And an astronaut's Private Passions would not be complete without music from Holst's Planets Suite.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Dec 04 2016

38mins

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Rank #17: Rachel Parris

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The comedian Rachel Parris talks to Michael Berkeley about her musical passions and how her life as a classical musician led to her career in comedy. Her hugely versatile career includes improvised comedy shows, stand-up, musical comedy and appearances on Radio 4’s The Now Show. She’s caused quite a stir with her hilarious turns as a faux-naïve reporter on BBC2’s satirical news show The Mash Report.

During her teens Rachel thought she would have a career as a classical musician –– she has a Music degree from Oxford, she’s an accomplished singer, and an excellent pianist; indeed, until recently she was a piano teacher.

Rachel talks to Michael about how she moved from music to comedy via drama school and how music still has a central place in her life. Her choices of pieces reflect the breadth of her musical passions, from a recording of Tallis in which she sings, to Bernstein and the American Songbook. She loves music that tells a story, particularly Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and music that makes her laugh, like Tom Lehrer’s songs. Rachel talks movingly about depression and her work with The Samaritans, and we hear music by Debussy which she finds a comfort in difficult times.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

Mar 03 2019

35mins

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Rank #18: Irving Finkel

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Assyriologist Irving Finkel talks to Michael Berkeley about his passion for clay tablets, chamber music, and Jimi Hendrix.

Irving Finkel is one of the world's leading experts in the world's oldest, and most impenetrable, system of writing - cuneiform.

Because the scribes of Ancient Mesopotamia imprinted cuneiform with a stylus into clay tablets, lots of it has survived, and indeed Irving Finkel has spent the past 45 years delighting in the company of more than 130,000 cuneiform tablets at the British Museum. But one day a member of the public brought in a clay tablet which changed his life - it was a 4000-year-old blueprint for Noah's Ark - a thousand years older than the story in the Bible.

Irving is also passionate about music - particularly old recordings - and his choices include string quartets by Schubert and Dvorak, 1930s blues and a blast of Jimi Hendrix.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

Jun 01 2014

40mins

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Rank #19: Private Passions: Sir Isaiah Berlin

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Philosopher, Isaiah Berlin discusses his personal music choices with Michael Berkeley in 1996 - drawn from the archive to mark 20 years of Private Passions.

Aug 24 2016

23mins

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Rank #20: Lauren Child

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Michael Berkeley's guest is the best-selling author, illustrator, and Children's Laureate Lauren Child.

I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato; I Am Too Absolutely Small for School; I Am Not Sleepy and Will Not Go to Bed - these are just three of Lauren Child's bestselling, funny and touching picture books for young children. Her big-eyed characters such as Charlie and Lola, and Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent, capture the way children negotiate the small but significant challenges of family life, school and growing up. And they're illustrated with Lauren's trademark collages of her drawings and paintings, magazine cuttings, fabrics and photographs.

But she writes for older children too - novels featuring the feisty Clarice Bean and, most recently, Ruby Redfort, who has to juggle her mundane life at school with being a top international secret agent and expert code-breaker.

The winner of numerous awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal and multiple Smarties Prizes, Lauren Child has been Britain's Children's Laureate since 2017.

In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Lauren talks about the struggle she faced in her twenties to find direction in life, the challenge and joy of adopting her daughter from Mongolia, and why she can't work unless she's feeling melancholy. She chooses a Mongolian long song for her daughter; music by Satie that conjures up her own childhood; and music by Puccini and Vivaldi used in films that had a huge impact on the development of her imagination.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Aug 05 2018

34mins

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