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Private Passions


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

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




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




Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is steeped in Viking lore. She travels through the icy landscapes of the Far North in the footsteps of those Norse "far travellers" who have left us their wonderful poetic stories of kings and trolls and dragons. She's an Associate Professor at Durham University and an AHRC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and her fieldwork has taken her pretty much everywhere the Vikings went: through Greenland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Orkney. Recently she went to stay on...


Alistair Spalding

Alistair Spalding talks about dance with the zeal of the convert. Although he's headed Sadler's Wells since 2004, commissioning new work from leading international choreographers - Akram Khan, Mark Morris, Matthew Bourne, Pina Bausch - he doesn't come from a dance background. He left school at sixteen, and worked in a solicitor's office, aiming to be a lawyer. He then studied linguistics and philosophy and became a primary school teacher. And so, how did he end up becoming Artistic Director...


Helen Czerski

The physicist and broadcaster Helen Czerski talks to Michael Berkeley about her favourite music, inspired by her Polish heritage and her fascination with technology and exploration. Having gained a wonderfully titled PhD in Experimental and Explosive Physics from Cambridge in 2006, Helen worked in the US and Canada, and is now a Research Fellow at University College London where she specialises in the relationship between waves, weather and climate. But apart from her academic research and...


Alfred Brendel

Alfred Brendel is one of the great musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He's renowned for his masterly interpretations of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt and Beethoven; in fact he was the first performer to record the complete solo piano works of Beethoven. Alfred Brendel gave his first public recital in Graz at the age of only 17, in 1948, and went on performing around the world for more than sixty years. Since his retirement in 2008 he has relished the...


Bach compilation

Many Private Passions guests over the years have revealed their passion for Bach. But for some, the great composer has really transformed their lives. The great primatologist Jane Goodall, for instance, describes how she reached such a dark time in her life that she considered giving up altogether. Four of her workers had been kidnapped in Africa, in the chimpanzee sanctuary she'd established. The money for her research had come to an end. At crisis point, she went into Notre Dame Cathedral...


Jane Birkin

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....


Michael Frayn

The playwright and novelist Michael Frayn shares his musical passions with Michael Berkeley. Michael Frayn is an acute observer of the absurdities and pain of the human condition, and his writing career has spanned journalism, novels, philosophy, Russian translation, and plays both philosophical and farcical. Noises Off, his 1982 farce about a farce, has become one of the twentieth century's best loved and most successful plays and is frequently described as the funniest farce ever written....


Susan Richards

Susan Richards, writer and commentator on contemporary Russia, talks to Michael Berkeley about her fascination with the country and her passion for 20th-century Russian music. Susan's first book, Epics of Everyday Life, was about the euphoric period after the collapse of communism. She travelled all over Russia to try to find out how ordinary people were coping with the discovery that they'd been so comprehensively lied to for so long. Her second book, sixteen years in the writing, was Lost...


John Surman

As part of Radio 3's coverage of the London Jazz Festival, Michael Berkeley talks to the saxophonist and bass clarinettist John Surman, who over a career of dizzying versatility that spans more than fifty years, has shown us just how many different ways jazz can be made. Surman's hundreds of recordings include solos with synthesizers, saxophone trios, trios with voice and drums, with brass bands and big bands. He has made albums with church choirs, duos with church organs and with drums, as...


Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a prizewinning writer whose books return again and again to Russia. His latest novel is Red Sky at Noon, the last of his Moscow Trilogy, following Sashenka and One Night in Winter. His most recent history, The Romanovs 1613-1918, tells the story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness. It's a world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild...


Ronan Bennett

Ronan Bennett is a novelist and screenwriter whose latest drama series on the BBC, "Gunpowder", dramatizes the story of Guy Fawkes from the point of view of the Catholics, who were persecuted in England at the time. All through his substantial body of work Ronan Bennett has explored the roots of violence and terrorism, something he knows about from personal experience, having grown up as a Catholic in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. He was imprisoned twice as a young man, accused of IRA...


Anna Pavord

Michael Berkeley's guest is Anna Pavord, the distinguished writer about gardens and landscape. Her best-known book is The Tulip, a biography of the bulb that created a mania in the 17th century, but she's written extensively about plants, and places, and spent years as gardening columnist of the Independent. Her latest book "Landskipping: painters, ploughmen and places", is an exploration of how, through the ages, we have responded to the land. The programme is recorded on location in the...


Stephen Hugh-Jones

Stephen Hugh-Jones is a fellow of King's College Cambridge and has spent 45 years researching - and living among - the Amazonian Indians who live on the Equator, in South-Eastern Colombia. They are still one of the most remote peoples on earth, and when Dr Hugh-Jones and his wife Christine first went to live there, in the late 1960s, this was a people, and a culture, completely untouched by modern life. This was partly because people were afraid of them; they had a reputation for being...


Janine di Giovanni

Janine di Giovanni has spent more than two decades reporting from some of the most dangerous places on earth: Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Iraq, and Syria. She's the Middle East Editor of Newsweek, and writes for the New York Times, as well as for glossy magazines - winning numerous prizes, including two Amnesty International Media Awards. She's also written seven books - including most recently "Dispatches from Syria: The Morning They Came for Us", a moving account of the horror, and...


Timberlake Wertenbaker

Timberlake Wertenbaker is one of our leading playwrights, adapters and translators. Her parents were American, but she was brought up in Basque country in France and has spent much of her life in Greece. Not surprising, then, that her major theme is exile, displacement, flight. She's best known for her play about convicts in 18th century Australia, "Our Country's Good", which was first staged in the late 1980s and which was revived recently at the National Theatre. It has become a set text...


Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is one of the world's leading composers of film music, with more than 120 scores to his name. His big breakthrough came in 2007 with Girl With A Pearl Earring, and since then he's been nominated for innumerable awards, including eight Oscars. 2015 was a particularly interesting year as Alexandre was Oscar-nominated for two films, with The Grand Budapest Hotel beating The Imitation Game on the night. Alexandre talks to Michael Berkeley about the pressures of writing up to...


Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson began her working life busking and writing songs, and when one of her songs became a children's book, her phenomenally successful career as an author was born. She's been the biggest selling author in Britain for the last six years. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has anything to do with young children, who adore her vibrant and funny rhyming picture books - which include A Squash and a Squeeze, The Snail and the Whale, and the tale of that much-loved monster,...


Glenda Jackson

For three decades Glenda Jackson was one of our most acclaimed actors, winning BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Emmys, and two Oscars - for Women in Love and for A Touch of Class. And alongside her film career were ground-breaking stage performances for directors such as Peter Brook and Peter Hall, and a television career which included an astonishing portrayal of Elizabeth I - a performance few of us will forget. But in 1992 she gave it all up to become the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate,...


Andrew Solomon

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"...


John Sutherland

The scholar and critic John Sutherland talks to Michael Berkeley about his passions for film, music, and Victorian literature. An unsuccessful career at school and a backbreaking job laying railway tracks were an unlikely start in life for the future Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at University College London. John Sutherland is hugely respected for his academic work on Victorian literature, but his infectious passion for books has led him to write for a...


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