48 episodes

The stories that matter, the people that matter, the music that matters

Music Matters BBC

    • Society & Culture

The stories that matter, the people that matter, the music that matters

    Music beyond the crisis

    Music beyond the crisis

    This week, Music Matters surveys the impact of coronavirus on the UK's music industry as the Chancellor of the Exchequer launches a package of help to free-lancers, benefiting most musicians. Tom Service interviews Sir Nicholas Serota about Arts Council England’s plans to assist institutions and individuals cope with the crisis. Tom also talks to Peter Holman about his book 'Before the baton: musical direction and conducting in Stuart and Georgian Britain' - with a contribution by Kati Debretzeni, lead violin of many Early Music ensembles in the UK. And as the London Symphony Orchestra makes a selection of its performances available online during this extraordinary period, there’s another chance to hear an interview with Michael Tilson Thomas, recorded last November, when he celebrated 50 years of artistic relationship with the ensemble.

    • 44 min
    Musical communication

    Musical communication

    Kate Molleson hears from the author, musician, and researcher Matt Brennan about his new book, ‘Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit’. We speak to the Scottish singer, songwriter, and composer, Karine Polwart, as she shares her ideas about music’s power to communicate in today’s world. As she embarks upon a project to share all thirty-six movements of Bach’s six Cello Suites during the coronavirus outbreak, Music Matters revisits a discussion with the cellist Alisia Weilerstein. And as artists the world over find new ways to continue communicating with their audiences, Kate speaks to the soprano Soraya Mafi, producer of Café Oto, Fielding Hope, and conductor Ilan Volkov about their creative responses to our current reality.

    • 43 min
    Vikingur Olafsson, ENO Figaro, Prokofiev operas

    Vikingur Olafsson, ENO Figaro, Prokofiev operas

    Sara Mohr-Pietsch talks to Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson, whose new CD juxtaposes the music of French composers Rameau and Debussy, author Christina Guillaumier on her new book The Operas of Sergei Prokofiev, as well as Russian music expert Gerard McBurney, and visits English National Opera in London to chat to cast and director Joe Hill-Gibbins of a new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

    • 44 min
    Game-changers

    Game-changers

    Tom Service interviews Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, who at the age of 33 is a phenomenon of vocal nature and is critically acclaimed for her performances of Wagner and Strauss. On the eve of International Women's Day 2020, we talk to Alice Farnham who launched what has become the RPS Women Conductors course back in 2014. She assesses how things have changed since and what the expectations are of young female conductors wishing to develop a career at the podium. Music Matters also hears from Professor John Richardson and researcher Jelena Novak about their new book, 'Einstein on the Beach - opera beyond drama', which assesses the legacy of Philip Glass's landmark piece across all arts and popular culture. And Tom learns about Denis and Katya – a collaboration between composer Philip Venables and director and writer Ted Huffmann – another boundary-pushing opera that explores the story of a couple of Russian teenagers who committed suicide on social media after a stand-off with the police.

    • 44 min
    Fidelio

    Fidelio

    Kate Molleson heads down to Covent Garden where rehearsals are under way for a new production of Beethoven's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House. She speaks to conductor Sir Antonio Pappano, director Tobias Kratzer and soprano Amanda Forsythe, who sings Marzelline. Fidelio is sometimes considered a problem opera, with its mix of comic and serious, but Kratzer emphasises the deep themes of political revolution and unjust imprisonment, while for Pappano, Beethoven's score opened a new world for German opera, not least for Wagner. Kate also talks to Marta Gardolinska, Young Conductor in Association at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, about the challenges of forging a career as a conductor, and about her love of Polish music. And Music Matters joins the composer Valgeir Sigurdsson and director Stewart Laing as they discuss We Are In Time, a new music-theatre piece for the Scottish Ensemble about a heart transplant. It's a profound exploration of the emotional and scientific aspects of this most risky operation, with the ensemble's string players also taking on dramatic roles and singing. Kate also investigates the effectiveness of mood-based music playlists, with James Foley from Spotify and Hugo Shirley from classical streaming site Idagio - and gets a concert programmer's point of view from Helen Wallace, programme director of King's Place in London. Are mood lists a gateway to the treasures of classical music, or just dumbing down the art form?

    • 43 min
    The secret life of musical instruments

    The secret life of musical instruments

    As he returns to his native Scotland to conduct the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Bruckner’s mighty eighth symphony, Kate speaks to the conductor Donald Runnicles about his relationship with the composer’s music and a lifetime spent making music. Kate visits Xenia Pestova Bennett at Queen Mary University of London to hear about her second album which features a new instrument, the Magnetic Resonator Piano. She tells Kate about her creative responses to the effects that electromagnets can induce on a regular concert grand piano. And marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Henri Veuxtemps, Music Matters hears from the violinist Anne Akiko Meyers – the current custodian of the composer’s famous Guarneri del Gesù violin. She describes the sound characteristics of what is reportedly the world’s most expensive instrument. Kate also catches-up with the author Sophy Roberts to learn about her travels across Siberia in search of the backstories of keyboards scattered across an eleventh of the world’s landmass. From clavichords transported by governors on sledge, through pianos which have weathered the region’s furtive cold, to a keyboard hacked out of a Gulag bunkbed frame, Kate hears how these instruments embody the soul of Siberia.

    • 43 min

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