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Music

Private Passions

Updated 8 days ago

Music
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Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

Read more

Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

iTunes Ratings

12 Ratings
Average Ratings
7
1
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

12 Ratings
Average Ratings
7
1
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

Updated 8 days ago

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Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

Rank #1: 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 #2: 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 #3: Alan Bennett

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Michael Berkeley's guest this week is Alan Bennett. We know him as the much-loved playwright and diarist who's been entertaining and moving us as a writer and performer since Beyond the Fringe in 1960. But there's one aspect of Alan Bennett that's less well-known: the central importance of music in his life, including the extraordinary fact that he once wrote a libretto for William Walton. (Sadly, Lady Walton was not impressed, and shoved it firmly to the bottom of her handbag.)

In a moving and funny programme, Alan Bennett remembers the music that filled his childhood: his father was a gifted violinist, and his aunts played the piano for silent movies. As a teenager, new worlds were opened up by concerts in Leeds Town Hall, where Bennett sat in the cheapest seats behind the musicians, 'like sitting behind the elephants at the circus'. And then came fame, and Hollywood: 'Elizabeth Taylor actually sat on my knee at one point. It was not a pleasant experience'. In a touching conclusion to the programme, Alan Bennett listens to Elgar's Dream of Gerontius and is stirred to think about the boy he used to be, and what that boy might say to him now.

Music choices include a 1939 recording of 'I can give you the starlight' by Ivor Novello; a waltz by Franz Lehar; Brahms's Second Piano Concerto; Bach's St Matthew Passion; Walton's First Symphony; Elgar's Dream of Gerontius; and Ella Fitzgerald singing 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered'. This last song inspired The History Boys when Alan Bennett heard it on Private Passions in 2001.

This special programme includes three bonus tracks available online: Alan Bennett chooses two further pieces of music, and talks about the music he hates and never wants to hear again.

Produced by the Loftus Media Private Passions team (Elizabeth Burke, Jane Greenwood, Oliver Soden and Jon Calver).

Dec 20 2015

31mins

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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: Greta Scacchi

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From Hollywood to European art house cinema, from Shakespeare to contemporary drama, Greta Scacchi is one of our most versatile actors.

She talks to Michael Berkeley about the film that made her name in 1983 – Heat and Dust – and chooses music from the soundtrack featuring Zakir Hussain.

She reveals how her musical training as a child – learning ballet, piano and singing - has been invaluable when she’s been called on to play and sing on film. She particularly loved the character she played in Jefferson in Paris, the eighteenth-century Anglo-Italian artist and musician Maria Cosway, and explains how difficult it was to pretend the play the harp on screen. We hear some of Maria Cosway’s music from that film.

Greta chooses music by Satie which reminds her of her mother’s ballet school when she was a child. Her mother is still dancing at 87! And we hear one of Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, and a Handel aria which illustrate Greta’s passion for the theatre; she chooses pieces which remind her of the places she loves – Sussex, Italy and Australia. We get an insight into her passion for jazz with music from Jimmy Guiffre and Fats Waller.

And Greta speaks out about the importance of actors campaigning for causes they believe in – she’s passionate about the environment and even posed naked with a cod to draw attention to unsustainable fishing.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

Mar 10 2019

37mins

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Rank #6: 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 #7: 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 #8: 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 #9: Rory Kinnear

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Michael Berkeley's guest is the actor Rory Kinnear.

Rory Kinnear is in danger of becoming a national treasure. Audiences across the world know him thanks to two Bond movies, where he plays M15 officer Bill Tanner. He was the journalist in the TV thriller Southcliffe, he was Denis Thatcher in the Margaret Thatcher TV biopic, he's the straight man to Count Arthur Strong... And he's established a reputation as one of our finest Shakespearean actors - his performance as Hamlet at the National Theatre was screened across the UK as part of the National's 50th anniversary celebrations. This summer he played an unforgettably chilling Iago to Adrian Lester's Othello, again at the National. And he's just turned playwright - his first play, The Herd, directed by Howard Davies, has opened in London.

He's a difficult actor to pin down. But in conversation with Michael Berkeley he reveals the man behind the theatrical mask. He talks movingly about his father, the actor Roy Kinnear, who was killed during a film stunt, and how he kept sane after the accident by playing the piano. Rory still plays in rehearsal rooms across the world, grabbing his chance at the piano while the other actors eat lunch. He reveals too that music is the key to his relationship with his sister, who was born with profound disabilities; Rory composes music for her, and plays songs as a way of communicating with her. He works increasingly with musicians, at the Proms last year, and in recordings. And, be warned, every morning he walks across London listening to music on his huge headphones - and singing along at the top of his voice.

Music choices include Mark Padmore singing Bach, Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, a Beethoven violin sonata, Erroll Garner, and Big Rock Candy Mountain.

First broadcast 13/10/2013.

Oct 13 2013

30mins

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Rank #10: Roddy Doyle

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It was a band called The Commitments that first brought Roddy Doyle fame 25 years ago - not a real group of musicians, but a comic novel about a group of Dublin teenagers who get together and form a soul band. The book and its sequels became successful films. Roddy Doyle gave up his job as a teacher and has gone on to write nine more novels set in Dublin, where he grew up and still lives.

One of them, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, won the Booker Prize and is a memorable tour de force told entirely in the voice of a ten-year-old Dublin boy. Roddy Doyle has also written for children, for the theatre and the cinema, and now, after 25 years, he's back where he started - he's turned The Commitments into a musical which has just opened in London's West End.

Roddy's music choices range from the richness of Pergolesi and Mozart to the sparse modernism of Steve Reich and Brian Eno, with a touching love song to end the programme.

He talks to Michael Berkeley about music while you work, the pleasures of Dublin dialogue, and the joy of taking up the trumpet in middle age.

First broadcast November 2013.

Nov 03 2013

38mins

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Rank #11: Jane Birkin

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Jane Birkin came to fame in the swinging 60s, thanks to her wild beauty and daring appearances in avant-garde films such as Blow-up, and thanks also to her tempestuous relationship with Serge Gainsbourg. In 1969 their song "Je t'aime" was banned by the BBC and the rest is history; it became the biggest-selling foreign language record ever. Since then, Jane Birkin has appeared in more than fifty films, been awarded the OBE for services to Anglo-French relations and released thirteen albums.

In Private Passions, she remembers Paris in the 1960s, and above all, her beloved Serge Gainsbourg; she describes the night they met in vivid cinematic detail. She talks too about her marriage to the film composer John Barry and chooses music he wrote for the funeral of her daughter. She talks perceptively about getting older, and the strange freedom age brings.

Music choices include Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring; Allegri's Miserere; John Barry's music for The Lion in Winter; Mahler's 10th Symphony, and Bernstein's West Side Story.

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

Dec 17 2017

28mins

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Rank #12: 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 #13: 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 #14: 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 #15: Gwyneth Glyn

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The poet and singer-songwriter Gwyneth Glyn talks to Michael Berkeley about the music she loves from Wales and around the world.

Gwyneth has been described as a poet among singers and a singer among poets. She's also a television script writer, a playwright and a children's author, having won the Crown at the Urdd Eisteddfod aged 18, and going on to be appointed Wales' National Poet Laureate for Children in 2006, the year she also won Best Female Artist in the Radio Cymru Rock and Pop Awards. Brought up in a Welsh speaking household, she's a passionate advocate of the language both within Wales and internationally.

Gwyneth talks to Michael about writing a libretto for the first ever Welsh language opera, growing up in a rural Welsh-speaking community, and the pleasures and challenges of passing the language on to the next generation.

She chooses music from her collaboration with Indian ghazal singer Tauseef Akhtar, as well as music by Tippett, Welsh folk hero Meredydd Evans, Rimsky Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

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

Mar 18 2018

35mins

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Rank #16: 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 #17: 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 #18: Jess Robinson

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The actress and comedian Jess Robinson tells Michael Berkeley how her training as a classical singer informs her impressions of a vast range of singers, including Kate Bush, Bjork, Lady Gaga, Billie Holiday and Julie Andrews.

A regular on Radio 4’s The Now Show, Dead Ringers, and 15 Minute Musicals, Jess made her name starring on stage in Little Voice and playing Joan Collins’ daughter in Full Circle. Her musical impressions propelled her to the semi finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2017 and she’s currently on tour with her show No Filter.

Jess chooses songs by Samuel Barber and Debussy that were favourites from her classical singing lessons, and pieces that remind her of the rich musical heritage of her family, including a 20th-century organ prelude that she plays in her local church as a double act with her mother – her mother plays the keyboards but Jess plays the pedals, as her mother’s legs are too short to reach them! And we hear Jess’s grandmother singing a traditional Yiddish song, recorded after she arrived in Britain on one of the very last Kindertransports in 1939.

Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

May 19 2019

29mins

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Rank #19: 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 #20: 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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