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Music

Private Passions

Updated about 1 month 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.

Read more

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 Jun 28, 2020

All 284 episodes from oldest to newest

Helen Macdonald

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Michael Berkeley’s guest is the writer Helen Macdonald, whose book "H is for Hawk" shot to the top of the bestseller lists, not just here but around the world. It’s perhaps no surprise that there’s a certain amount of birdlife in her playlist, from Stravinsky’s The Firebird to a piece inspired by a song thrush by the Finnish-English singer Hanna Tuulikki. She chooses music from A Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson, full of glittering ice, which consoled her when she was living in the desert of the UAE. We hear Britten’s Second String Quartet, Lully’s “The Triumph of Love”, Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony, and a song by Henry VIII.

Helen Macdonald talks about why writing about nature can be a way of holding the world to account, and about how she finds joy in the fields and lanes around her in Suffolk, during this difficult time. She reveals too what it’s like living with her grumpy parrot Birdoole, who steals the keys from her computer keyboard.

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

Jun 28 2020

32mins

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Peter Stanford

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For more than 20 years, in more than 20 books, Peter Stanford has grappled with religious belief. Starting with a book called Catholics and Sex, he’s gone on to write the lives of Martin Luther and Cardinal Hume, and the biography of the campaigning Catholic Lord Longford; he’s published books about the devil, about heaven, and most recently – a fascinating book about angels. They’re works which mix history, theology, literature and art history – and some really honest and funny personal stories; because although he was brought up a Catholic, he says he’s the kind of church-goer who always wants to jump up and argue with the sermon.

In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Peter Stanford reflects on his Liverpool childhood, and the challenges his mother faced living with MS. He talks about his commitment to prison reform, and his belief in the importance of rehabilitation, even for those who have committed appalling crimes. And he reflects on why so many people believe in angels, even when they say they don’t believe in God or any organised religion. Peter has never seen an angel himself; but at the end of the programme he does tell an extraordinary story about being touched by the supernatural.

Music choices include Hildegard of Bingen, Jacqueline du Pre playing Bach, Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate, the political protest singer Harry Chapin, and Jennifer Johnston singing a song that resonates now: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

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

Jun 14 2020

36mins

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Patricia Wiltshire

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Michael Berkeley’s guest is the forensic ecologist Professor Patricia Wiltshire, a solver of puzzles who has carved out a whole new discipline within forensic science. Patricia solves crimes with her microscope by meticulous examination of tiny particles such as pollen and spores left at crime scenes or found on the clothing of criminals or on their victims. She says: ‘Nature will invariably give up her secrets to those of us who know where to look.’

Patricia tells Michael how the course of her life was changed by a phone call from the police asking her to assist on a murder case. She was able to match the pollen left by the shoes of the murderers in their car to the plants where they had dumped the body of their victim, and thus secured their conviction.

Since then she has worked on nearly 300 cases including the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham; the Millie Dowler and Sarah Payne cases; and the Ipswich prostitute murders.

Patricia chooses music by Chopin that she played when she was learning the piano in her 40s, and music by Hasselmans, which expresses her regret at never having learned to play the harp.

We hear Russian ballet music, and a Mozart aria sung by her favourite singer Cecilia Bartoli. Patricia talks movingly about how her grief at the death of her infant daughter allows her to deal with the most distressing aspects of her job.

She describes the happiness she finally found with her second husband at the age of 63 and chooses exuberant flamenco music to celebrate their relationship.

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

May 31 2020

34mins

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Brian Greene

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Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University in New York; he’s renowned for his ground-breaking discoveries in superstring theory. But the reason he's well known way beyond the scientific community is that he’s so very good at explaining science to a wide popular audience. He’s written six best-selling books, starting with The Elegant Universe, which explains string theory, and most recently Until the End of Time. In 2008 he and his wife founded the annual World Science Festival in New York, which is now held in Australia too, and gets forty million hits online. The son of a composer, he’s also worked extensively with musicians, and has collaborated with the composer Philip Glass.

He says: "Like a life without music, art or literature, a life without science is bereft of something that gives experience a rich and otherwise inaccessible dimension.” In conversation with Michael Berkeley, he shares his musical discoveries: pieces by Bach, by Beethoven, and by Philip Glass. He reveals how as a graduate student he learnt to play the piano purely in order to play the Brahms Rhapsody in G Minor. We hear too haunting cello music composed by his father, Alan Greene, and specially recorded for the programme.

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

May 27 2020

32mins

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Andrew O'Hagan

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In a moving and personal interview the novelist and journalist Andrew O’Hagan talks to Michael Berkeley about his family and the music that inspires his writing.

Andrew O’Hagan grew up on a tough housing estate in north Ayrshire, the son of a cleaner and a carpenter, and the youngest of four boys. He has gone on to become one of our most prolific, vivid and meticulous writers - an essayist and investigative journalist whose subjects have included Julian Assange; the invention of Bitcoin; and the Grenfell fire. And he has published five multi-award-winning novels, ranging from a fictionalised life of Lena Zavaroni to the tragedy of a Catholic priest in a small Scottish town - and the memoirs of Marilyn Monroe’s dog.

Andrew tells Michael Berkeley that his childhood ambition was to be not a writer but a ballet dancer, which did not go down well in his tough home and school environment. We hear the ballet music by Massenet that first transfixed him.

Despite living in England for many years Andrew returns to Scotland constantly in his novels. He chooses a setting of a poem collected by Robert Burns, which always takes him back to his homeland. And we hear music by John Field and by Beethoven, two composers who provide him with creative inspiration.

Andrew talks movingly about his love for his family and chooses music by June Christy that accompanied the birth of his daughter, and a poem by Shelley set by Frank Bridge which was played at his wedding.

Producer: Jane Greenwood

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

May 10 2020

34mins

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John Dyson

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John Dyson spent 23 years as a judge, moving up through the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and finally becoming Master of the Rolls. He retired as Master of the Rolls three years ago, but he’s back working on international arbitrations, busier than ever; in fact, he presided over the recent decision that the Saracens rugby team were being overpaid.

Through it all, the great passion that has sustained him is music. He's an accomplished pianist and took lessons from the legendary teacher Dame Fanny Waterman. Piano music is his first love, and so his music choices include Beethoven’s exuberant first piano concerto; Schubert’s F Minor Piano Fantasy for Four Hands, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations. He loves opera too, especially Verdi’s Otello, an opera written when the composer was in his seventies. Choosing Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms becomes an opportunity to talk about his Jewish heritage, and about his grandmother, who escaped from Bergen Belsen. John Dyson talks too about the rise of anti-Semitism now; he says: “our suitcases are packed.”

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3
Produced by Elizabeth Burke

Apr 26 2020

31mins

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Chris Watson

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Wildlife sound recordist and sound artist Chris Watson talks to Michael Berkeley about how his favourite music is inspired by the natural world.
Chris is most famous for his sound recordings for David Attenborough’s television series – for which he’s won BAFTAs – but he’s a musician too. A member of the influential post-punk band Cabaret Voltaire in the late 70s and early 80s, today he’s a sound artist and composer, creating installations around the world.

His 2003 release Weather Report, featuring soundscapes of a Kenyan savannah, a Highland glen, and an Icelandic glacier, was voted one of the 100 best albums to hear before you die by The Guardian, and has been described as ‘cinema for the ears’.

Chris’s mission in life is to make us stop what we’re doing and listen to the sounds of the natural world and this is reflected in his choices of music. We hear his own recording of a Sami calling to his ancestors across a Norwegian lake, and northern landscapes echoed in Sibelius’s symphonic poem Tapiola. And Chris chooses the music of multi-award-winning Icelandic film composer Hildur Guðnadottir, who worked with him to record the soundscape for the television series Chernobyl.

Chris tells Michael about the challenges of recording in cold and hostile environments for his many series with David Attenborough, and the pleasures of the year he spent recording the sounds around Aldeburgh for Benjamin Britten’s centenary, in 2013. We hear the magical combination of a recording he made of a nightingale in Britten’s garden paired with the Ciaconna from Britten’s Second Cello Suite.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

Apr 12 2020

35mins

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Jools Holland

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Jools Holland, the king of boogie-woogie piano, reveals his life-long passion for classical music in conversation with Michael Berkeley.

The piano is at the heart of everything Jools Holland does. Since he left school at fifteen and joined Squeeze, he - and his piano - have been pretty much constantly on the road, touring with The Jools Holland Big Band, and now his nineteen-piece Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. He also finds time to present a regular Radio 2 show and has made a record-breaking fifty-five series of Later with Jools Holland, the longest running music show on television, chatting to and playing with everyone from David Bowie and Paul McCartney to Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z.

Jools tells Michael that his first musical passion was Bach, listening as a young child growing up in Deptford to a family friend playing from The Well Tempered Clavier. He juxtaposes two pieces from this collection, played by his favourite pianists Edwin Fischer and Friedrich Gulda, to illustrate his passion for interpretation – for Jools, music is predominately about ‘the singer, not the song’.

He has a great passion for early recordings: we hear Kathleen Ferrier and Isobel Baillie singing Mendelssohn in 1945 with the pianist Gerald Moore; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in Richard Strauss’s bitterly comic opera Arabella; and Tito Schipa, the great Italian tenor of the 1930s, singing an eighteenth-century French love song.

Jools tells Michael how he taught himself the piano and developed his trademark boogie-woogie style; how he’s kept sane and healthy during the decades he’s spent on the road; and how he winds down with the non-musical passion that he keeps in his attic...

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

Apr 05 2020

42mins

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Stephen Schwartz

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Stephen Schwartz is a master of musicals. He wrote Godspell, Pippin, and The Baker’s Wife; he’s written the lyrics for films such as Pocohontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Enchanted - and many others. His musical Wicked, for which he wrote the words and music, has become something of a cult; it opened on Broadway in 2003 and in the West End in 2006, and it’s been running both in New York and in London ever since. He’s received numerous awards – three Oscars, four Grammys – and he’s over from New York for the opening of his new musical, The Prince of Egypt, a stage version of the popular film.

In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Stephen Schwartz reveals how classical music gives him ideas for his most successful musical numbers. In fact, he admits, he steals ideas from the great composers “flagrantly”. The opening of Wicked, for instance, comes from Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C-sharp minor – listeners to this episode can hear both, and compare them. He has been influenced too by Carl Orff and the exuberant orchestration of Carmina Burana. He also talks us through the bass chords he has borrowed from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and the two bars of Beethoven that he believes are the most moving music ever written. He reflects about the success of Wicked – and the “green girl inside us all”. Other musical choices include Bernstein’s Mass, Bach’s sixth Brandenburg Concerto, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and Puccini’s opera La Rondine.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

Mar 22 2020

36mins

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Isabel Allende

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Isabel Allende’s first novel, “The House of the Spirits” catapulted her to literary stardom, and was acclaimed as a classic of Latin American magic realism. That was nearly forty years ago and she’s not stopped writing since: with twenty novels and four volumes of memoir, she’s been translated all over the world and has sold some seventy-four million books. They’re vivid family sagas, with eccentric characters, dramatic reversals, discoveries of lost children, violent death, disease and revolution, and sudden consuming love affairs.

But Isabel Allende’s own life is as extraordinary as any of her novels. Abandoned by her father as a small child, she spent her early years travelling across South America with her stepfather, who was a diplomat. He was the cousin of Salvador Allende, Chile’s socialist leader, who became Isabel’s godfather. But when Allende was deposed by the right-wing government of General Pinochet in 1973, Isabel – by then married, with children – became caught up in the violent revolution and had to flee the country. She now lives with her third husband in California.

In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Isabel Allende reflects on her extraordinary life, and reveals how she has found happiness now in her seventies. Music choices include Vivaldi, Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1, Albinoni, the Chilean singer Victor Jara, a moving song from the Spanish Civil War, and a Mexican love song from the 1940s, “Kiss Me Lots”.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3
Produced by Elizabeth Burke

Mar 15 2020

33mins

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