Composer of the Week-logo

Composer of the Week


BBC Radio 3's Composer Of The Week is a guide to composers and their music. The podcast is compiled from the week's programmes and published on Friday, it is only available in the UK.

BBC Radio 3's Composer Of The Week is a guide to composers and their music. The podcast is compiled from the week's programmes and published on Friday, it is only available in the UK.


London, United Kingdom




BBC Radio 3's Composer Of The Week is a guide to composers and their music. The podcast is compiled from the week's programmes and published on Friday, it is only available in the UK.




Composer of the Week: Jennifer Higdon (born 1962): The Soundworld of Strings

Donald Macleod in conversation with award-winning American composer Jennifer Higdon.


Composer of the Week: William Byrd (1543-1623): Retirement

Byrd attends Elizabeth I’s funeral and looks to his own legacy. With Donald Macleod.


Composer of the Week: William Byrd (1543-1623): Friends and Patrons

Byrd’s catholic faith meant he had to choose his allies carefully. With Donald Macleod.


Composer of the Week: William Byrd (1543-1623): Businessman

Byrd risks his livelihood as he ventures into music publishing. With Donald Macleod.


Composer of the Week: William Byrd (1543-1623): Lincoln

Donald Macleod charts Byrd's rise from boy chorister to music chief at Lincoln Cathedral.


Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Manuel de Falla Manuel de Falla was not well suited to the role of national musical icon. He was at his happiest, living a simple, monkish existence in his spartan Granada villa; fussing over his music in pleasant isolation or enjoying the company of a few close friends. He was generous but withdrawn, quietly and devotedly religious, and had a horror of being dragged into the violent political conflicts that wracked Spain during the first half of...


Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Donald Macleod pulls back the curtain on Berlioz’s greatest obsession Donald Macleod explores the women who shaped Hector Berlioz’s life and work Hector Berlioz was one the most innovative and rebellious musicians of 19th century France. He was a man of unwaveringly high expectations, in his wider life as well as his music. As the quintessential Romantic, one friend said that love was the “alpha and omega of his existence”. This week Donald Macleod looks at Berlioz through the passions and...


Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Donald Macleod explores the musical life of Benjamin Britten Music Featured: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (Nos 7 & 8) Phantasy Quartet Nocturne (On This Island) Ballad of Heroes (2nd mvt) Suite for Violin and Piano (Lullaby; Waltz) Hymn to St Cecilia Calypso Young Apollo for Piano and Strings Violin Concerto in D minor (1st & 2nd mvt) An American Overture Ceremony of Carols (Nos 7 & 8) Peter Grimes, Prologue Peter Grimes, “Old Joe has gone fishing” Four Sea Interludes, Op 33a Dark...


Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

This week, Donald Macleod explores Purcell’s work during his short life in the context of the turbulent times in which he lived. This was a period of intense political and social change, encompassing three different monarchies, the plague, the great fire of London, and the arrival of another deadly pandemic. Music featured: Blow up the trumpet in Sion, Z10 Welcome, vicegerent of the mighty king, Z340 Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei, Z135 Sonata a 4 No 4 in D minor, Z805 Theodosius, or The...


Pauline Viardot and her Circle

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the 19th-century French singer, pianist, composer and influential society figure, Pauline Viardot. “When I want to do something, I do it in spite of water, fire, society, the whole world”, an indicator if ever there was one, of the inner steel of this week’s composer. Born in 1821, Pauline Viardot possessed an array of exceptional qualities. As one of the opera stars of her age, she was admired from Paris to St Petersburg as a sublime interpreter...


Robert Simpson (1921-97)

Robert Simpson - once described as "Britain's most important composer since Vaughan Williams", and "one of the century's most powerful and original symphonists" - was a man of integrity, a champion of lesser-known composers, and a man who lived his own life by strict principles: pacifism, socialism and what he called "anti-pessimism". This week, in Simpson's centenary year, Donald Macleod looks back at the life and work of Robert Simpson - from his childhood in the Salvation Army, to his...


Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Donald Macleod explores some of the many turning points in Fauré’s career Gabriel Fauré’s story begins during the second half of the 19th century, when the musical world was dominated by the heavily romantic voices of composers like Wagner, Brahms and Liszt. Fauré became a key protagonist in a musical revolution that opened audiences ears to new modes of expression - modern, refined and utterly French. As a composer, and as a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, he left a huge legacy on the...


Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Robert Schumann’s early training was focused towards his ambition to become a celebrated concert pianist, but a hand injury quickly put that career option out of reach. Schumann turned instead to composition and put all that piano study to good use, writing many important works for his own instrument. This week, Composer of the Week unpacks the moments in Schumann’s life when he was creating some of his most famous and notable piano works, including one of the most iconic Romantic pianos...


Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

This week, Donald Macleod explores Aaron Copland’s most productive decade, and features some of his best loved works in full. During this time Copland hit his prime. He became recognised as America’s leading composer, winning the Pulitzer Prize in Music and an Academy Award for his work in Hollywood. He toured Europe and South America, absorbing diverse influences from each, and composed key works including his Symphony No.3, Appalachian Spring, Lincoln Portrait, Fanfare for the Common Man...


Erik Satie (1866-1925)

Donald Macleod explores five aspects of Satie This week, Donald Macleod looks at Satie as a trailblazer and humourist as well as his penchant for composing in threes, his copious, playful and highly idiosyncratic writings and his serious side. Music featured: Trois Gymnopédies (No 1, Lent et douloureux) Trois Sarabandes (No 2) uspud – ballet chrétien (3rd act) Le piège de Méduse Relâche – ballet instantanéiste Vexations (très lent) Embryons desséchés (No 1, ‘d’Holothurie’ – Allez un peu)...


Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)

Donald Macleod explores Chopin’s time in Britain Chopin made just two trips to Britain, both in later life. These visits are often portrayed as a disaster - a calamitous mistake of no worth to Chopin which hastened the composer’s death. This week, Donald Macleod explores these two trips in depth, during which the virtuoso pianist gave six of the thirty public concerts he gave during the whole of his life, and also made many private appearances meeting the great and the good of British...


Joseph Haydn

Donald Macleod surveys the string quartets of Joseph Haydn. From his opus 0 and opus 1 of the 1750s to his unfinished opus 103 of 1803, Haydn’s 68 string quartets span the major part of his compositional life. While he wasn’t the inventor of the form, he’s fully deserving of the epithet, the “father of the string quartet” as he elevated the form to new heights. It’s his ideas that take the quartet from its 18th century antecedents to the conventions that are rather more familiar to us today....


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Maurice Ravel is one of France’s most enigmatic, original and beloved composers. While less prolific than some of his contemporaries, Ravel was a master of detail - his works are elegant and exquisitely crafted, and precision was a guiding force in both his creativity and personality. He is often linked with impressionism for his painterly approach to orchestration and vivid soundworlds of his piano writing, but his distinctive voice bears influences from the baroque, to the exotic, to jazz....


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

This week, Donald Macleod looks at Handel’s life and work during an important decade of his life. The 1730s saw Handel create some of his best-loved works, but also saw him fall out with singers and patrons in London, endure a stroke and attendant poor mental health, and mourn the death of one of his chief supporters, Queen Caroline. Music Featured: Esther HWV 50b (revised version 1732) (excerpts) Trio Sonata in C Major, HWV 403 Acis and Galatea, HWV 49 (Act I: Aria: Hush, ye pretty warbling...


Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the English composer Ruth Gipps. Ruth Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1921. Her Swiss-born mother was an accomplished pianist and, recognising her daughter’s aptitude, taught her piano from an early age. Gipps was four years old when she gave her first public performance, at Grotrian Hall in London. It was from that moment on, she said later, that she knew without a shadow of a doubt, that playing the piano was her job and that she wanted to...