288 episodes

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

Private Passions BBC

    • Music
    • 4.1 • 119 Ratings

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

    Jack Klaff

    Jack Klaff

    Jack Klaff’s first movie was Star Wars: a two-day booking for which he was paid £250. Star Wars fans still write to ask him for his autograph. But to focus on that one film from 1976 is to miss the rich variety of an acting and directing career that has taken in Shakespeare, James Bond, Chekhov and Midsomer Murders, alongside writing more than a dozen one-man shows for television and the stage. He’s also been involved for thirty years in the public understanding of science, working both in a think-tank in Brussels and as a visiting professor in the US.

    Brought up in South Africa and the son of a watch-maker, Jack now lives in South London, where he’s set up a home studio so he can do Zoom productions of Beckett. In conversation with Michael Berkeley, he looks back critically at the way he was brought up during Apartheid, and how he was affected when his uncle and aunt were imprisoned as political dissidents by the South African regime. And he talks about what it was like recording Star Wars – a franchise then so unknown that his agent put the booking in the diary as “Stan Wars”.

    His playlist includes Schubert’s much-loved String Quintet, in a recording he loves from 1956; Yo-Yo Ma playing “Hoedown” with Bobby McFerrin; a late string quartet by Beethoven; Maria Callas in La Traviata; the African song Shosholoza; and Danny Kaye making fun of Russian composers.

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

    • 34 min
    Heather Phillipson

    Heather Phillipson

    Michael Berkeley’s guest is the artist Heather Phillipson whose giant swirl of cherry-topped, fly-blown whipped cream has recently been installed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

    Heather was a serious classical musician in her teens, and often uses music she’s composed and performed in her work.

    She talks to Michael about music she’s loved since her childhood, including a Mozart symphony and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; a radical opera by Robert Ashley from the 1980s that has had a profound influence on her work; piano music by Grieg which reminds her of her grandmother; and the soaring emotional impact of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5.

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

    • 38 min
    Anthony David

    Anthony David

    Professor Anthony David works at the mysterious interface between the mind, the brain and the body. The Director of the Institute of Mental Health at University College London, he’s published 13 books and more than 600 academic articles, and his work focuses on illnesses at the edge of human understanding.

    He tells Michael Berkeley about some of the patients he’s tried to help over the years: a man who thought he was dead; a strong teenage boy who appeared to be paralysed despite no detectable physical cause; and the manic patient he bonded with during a piano and guitar jamming session in the hospital gymnasium.

    Music has been central to Anthony’s life since he played the flute in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in his primary school orchestra. He chooses that piece and complements it with Dudley Moore’s hilarious homage to Beethoven. And we hear music Anthony loves from Debussy, Copland, Bach and Sondheim as well as from a school friend who went on to become one of our most celebrated jazz pianists.

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

    • 30 min
    Brian Moore

    Brian Moore

    In an emotional and highly personal interview, the former rugby international Brian Moore tells Michael Berkeley about the role music has played during his extraordinary life.

    Brian is a man of many parts – nicknamed ‘the pitbull’ for his fiercely competitive attitude on the rugby field, he won 64 England caps, playing in three world cups, and in the sides which won three Five Nations grand slams. He toured twice with the British Lions and in 1991 he was voted Rugby World Player of the Year.

    But he’s also had a parallel career as a City solicitor, is much in demand as a rugby commentator, has written for newspapers not just about sport but wine too, is a passionate fan of Tolkien and Shakespeare, writes books, loves motorbikes and skiing, and even trained as a manicurist when his then wife opened a nail bar in Soho.

    In a moving tribute to his 92-year-old adoptive mother, Brian chooses her favourite music, by Mendelssohn, and we hear the Overture from The Nutcracker, which he’s seen every year since he was 17, and now shares with his own daughters. We also hear the Mozart aria that convinced Brian it was the right time to retire from rugby.

    Unafraid to talk openly about his personal lows as well as his sporting highs, Brian reflects on the power music has over his emotions. Indeed, one piece proves to be totally overwhelming and he has to leave the studio while it is playing.

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

    • 37 min
    Helen Macdonald

    Helen Macdonald

    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 working in 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.

    • 32 min
    Peter Stanford

    Peter Stanford

    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

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
119 Ratings

119 Ratings

fleurcowgill ,

Brilliant!

Very informative with lots of good music and personal insight

wordwizzo ,

Soothing and Informative!

Recommended by a friend but didn’t really get it at first. Then I was mildly interested and now I am gripped! A superb concept - much better and more intelligent than Desert Island Discs. Wonderful pieces and soothing discussions.

Myrtilhos ,

The perfect radio programme

I have been listening for many years and is one of my favourites. The guests and their music choices are great but Berkeley’s voice, empathy and wit elevate the interviews to a whole different level.

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