143 episodes

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact

Soul Music BBC Radio 4

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.5 • 453 Ratings

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact

    Bruch's Violin Concerto

    Bruch's Violin Concerto

    A Violin Concerto in G minor, Opus 26, became the best-known work of the German composer Max Bruch. Originally written in 1866 it went through many revisions before finally being completed in 1867. It was performed extensively but having sold both the publishing and the manuscript Bruch died in relative obscurity in 1920. The Concerto would continue to be played around the world and the second movement in particular, the Adagio, became a much-loved favourite.

    Journalist Claire Read describes how much her Mother loved the piece after Claire learned and performed it in school, and how she would listen to it whilst being treated for cancer.

    Ukrainian violinist Kostia Lukyniuk recalls playing it with an orchestra in his home town aged 11, and how music still gives him strength as he plays for those battered by the Russian invasion of his home country.

    The second movement brings back fond memories for Archers actor June Spencer who listened to it with her husband and their friends on a veranda in Minorca.

    Leader of the Welsh National Opera David Adams was inspired to take-up the violin after listening to a recording of David Oistrakh playing this piece, and later performed it at the Fishguard Festival. It was a favourite of his Mum's and that recording was played at her funeral.

    The Carnegie Hall was the setting for violinist Shlomo Mintz's most treasured performance and he describes how it feels to play those soaring melodies.

    Curator Robinson McClellan at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York explains how the manuscript of this concerto made its way from Germany to the USA, and why this work would later become a source of resentment for this 'establishment' composer.

    Studio Manager: Ilse Lademann
    Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field.

    • 27 min
    Ne Me Quitte Pas

    Ne Me Quitte Pas

    Ne Me Quitte Pas is a song about begging someone not to go; of promising the world to them, if they'll only stay. From Haiti to New York, Provence to Glasgow... in versions by Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker... we hear stories of what Jacques Brel's song has meant to people around the world.

    With contributions from France Brel, Johane Celestin, Alastair Campbell, Brendan McGeever, Peter Hawkins and Malaika Kegode.

    Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio

    • 27 min
    Purple Rain

    Purple Rain

    "I never meant to cause you any sorrow,
    I never meant to cause you any pain..."

    True stories of what Prince's epic ballad means to different people around the world, from the very first jam in 1983 to the global hit that reigns over us today.

    Bobby Z, the drummer from Prince and The Revolution, remembers the buzz of the first ever performance of Purple Rain, and how the recording from that night lives on. Susan Rogers, Prince's recording engineer, tells stories from the Purple Rain tour, when the crew took bets on how long Prince's guitar solos would last. Comedian Sindhu Vee first heard the song as a teenager growing up in India and was knocked sideways by it. Weather reporter Judith Ralston describes the beautiful and rare weather phenomenon of purple rain. Social historian Zaheer Ali sees the song as a cry out for change, bringing audiences from different backgrounds together in cross-genre harmony. And finally, an intensive care hospital nurse played Purple Rain to Kevin Clarke while he was in a coma, because his sister knew he loved the song and hoped it might pull him through.

    Produced by Becky Ripley

    • 27 min
    Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton

    Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton

    Candi Staton and others celebrate this 1970's disco classic which delivers an optimistic message.

    Written by David Crawford and released in 1976 this is the kind of song that feels like a carefree celebration, something to lose yourself in on the dancefloor. But its story isn't quite so simple. As Candi tells Soul Music, Young Hearts Run Free was influenced by her own troubled and abusive relationship which she struggled to leave. In fact the creation of the song helped her gain the confidence to finally walk away.

    Other contributors are:

    Singer songwriter, Glen Hansard. He performs the song 'as' his mother because it reminds him so much of what the song meant to her.

    Ziggi Battles , a singer who chose to cover the song as a way of rejoicing in the role it played in recovering from a very difficult time.

    Jason Gilkison, the Creative Director of Strictly Come Dancing. It will forever remind him of the first time he choreographed a group dance for Strictly at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. His grandfather had danced there himself as a young man, before establishing the first dance school in Perth, Australia, which is where Jason developed his own love of ballroom dancing.

    Neil Brand, composer and broadcaster, analyses why the piece works musically. He also describes the pure joy of a version by Kym Mazelle and - unlikely as it seems - the actor and opera singer, Paul Sorvino. It was used as the soundtrack to the ballroom scene in Baz Luhrmann's film of Romeo and Juliet.



    Versions used: Candi Staton; Glen Hansard; Maz O'Connor; Ziggi Battles; Gloria Estefan; Kym Mazelle; Kym Mazelle (Ballroom Version) with Paul Sorvino

    Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Karen Gregor

    • 27 min
    A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten

    A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten

    In 1942, Benjamin Britten boarded the M.S. Axel Johnson, a Swedish cargo vessel, to make the journey home to England after three years in America. During the voyage, the ship stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten came across a poetry anthology in a bookshop - The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. In his cabin, he began work on setting some of these poems for voices and harp. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, the piece developed into an extended choral composition for Christmas.

    There are some pieces of music we return to at special moments and, for many, Britten's A Ceremony of Carols is a beloved winter piece - "Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a performance of it" says harpist Sally Pryce, who recalls performing the piece in deepest winter, desperately trying to keep her fingers warm as she prepared to play the first harp notes. Music writer Gavin Plumley tells the story of Britten's wartime voyage home and reflects on Christmases past and present. Matt Peacock remembers a very special performance of the work bringing together professional musicians, choristers and people experiencing homelessness in an Oxford college chapel. Dr Imani Mosley reflects on how the piece has helped her create a winter ritual in sunny Florida and how its meaning has changed since losing her partner. Conductor and composer Graham Ross is Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge; he takes us deep into Britten's sound world and reflects on the genius of his approach to setting texts and the mastery of his writing for harp and voices. And Johanna Rehbaum remembers the joy of singing the work with the women of her choir, days before giving birth to her son.

    Produced in Bristol by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio

    • 27 min
    U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

    U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

    More gospel than rock, this 1987 hit has inspired great change in people's lives and created memories for music lovers across the world.


    Brendan McManus was a corporate high flyer with an inexplicable sense that his life needed to change direction. This song was the tipping point that encouraged him to make a huge decision.

    Raghav Prasad writes a music blog about the songs he grew up with as a young man in India. This track takes him back to the 'chummery' where he lived in Bombay (now Mumbai) when he was starting out on what became a globe-trotting career. This song reflects both his continued urge to travel but also how he regards his Hindu faith.

    Neil Brand is a musician and broadcaster and a regular Soul Music contributor. He explains that the roots of this track are more gospel than rock.

    Pauline Henry was the lead singer of The Chimes. Their version of this track, with Pauline's stirring vocals, not only changed her life but was said to be Bono's favourite interpretation of the song.

    Rory Coleman is a world-class athlete and life coach who loves nothing more than to run for hundreds of miles across inhospitable terrain. However, in his 20s, his life was out of control. Something had to change and this song provided inspiration.

    Gail Mullin, in Kansas City, describes how much her husband loved U2 and especially this track. Shortly before he died he received a personal letter from Bono explaining what motivated him to write this song.

    Scroll down on the Soul Music webpage to the 'related links' box for more info about all the guests.

    Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Karen Gregor

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
453 Ratings

453 Ratings

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