BBC Radio 3
Radio 3 Presenter
Heroes and Villains
The first time I ever played Värttinä on Radio 3 was back in 1997 on a programme called Musical Encounters where they rubbed shoulders with Dvořák, Mozart, Giya Kancheli, Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble. Once Late Junction had begun, in 1999, they had a natural home for their music, and we recorded them at the Wychwood Festival and at Womad. I remember being at their 20th anniversary celebrations in Helsinki too. I just feel I’ve known them forever, and that this exciting collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra is a very natural next chapter.
I haven’t seen them since 2012 when I was honoured to present them with a Lifetime Achievement Award at Womex in Thessaloniki so I can’t wait for that moment when BBC 6 Music’s Tom Ravenscroft and I are live on Radio 3 sharing the stage with them and the orchestra and conductor Charles Hazlewood.
The Värttinä story goes back to 1983 to the Finnish village of Rääkkylä where mothers and grandmothers got some of...
Radio 3 Presenter
Jez Nelson previews this week’s Jazz on 3, paying tribute to saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman
Time after time jazz musicians talk about the quest to find their own voice. It seems to me that Ornette Coleman found his at an early age and it was one of the most recognisable in this beautiful music’s history. Ornette's blues-drenched, heart-stopping alto call was as close to the cry of the human soul as any horn player ever got. From the seismic recordings of his late 50s quartet through to his last recorded works (the subject of litigation to his final days) his sound was recognisable within a phrase.
I think that's why he touched so many and is being mourned so deeply. It matters little whether you ever got to grips with his harmolodics theory, because like John Coltrane, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, Ornette Coleman could floor you with a few notes.
On this week’s programme we hear from some of those who were close to Ornette or whose lives and music were...
Chief Conductor, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Carl Nielsen at his piano. Photo: The Royal Library, Copenhagen
Most of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s cycle of Carl Nielsen symphonies is now complete, and I am hugely looking forward to completing this fascinating survey of the great Danish composer’s music mirrored by that of his contemporaries.
This year's other great birthday hero, Jean Sibelius, is an obvious companion, despite the almost diametrically opposed nature of the two composers' musical styles and philosophies. Tapiola (1926) is the Finnish composer's last significant symphonic statement, and here serves the purpose of showing how distant he had become to his Danish counterpart. Tapiola is an incredibly powerful, hypnotic piece of music which, when performed properly, makes a human feel very small indeed at the feet of the great God of the forests of Finnish mythology.
Sergey Rachmaninov is yet another composer who poses interesting possibilities for comparison with Nielsen. The 4th Piano Concerto (1926) is his most intimate, honest and self-revealing piece of music. Composed in a...
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Dalibor at the Barbican Hall. Photo: Mark Allan/BBC
In the past the BBC Symphony Orchestra's former chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek has conducted a number of Czech operas by Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček and Martinů in highly successful concert performances.
A few years ago we performed Dvořák's The Jacobin which was huge fun for everybody and I remember being surprised to learn that Dvořák had actually written nine others. Yet, surprisingly,...
Joining forces ‒ the BBC Singers and Singapore Symphony Chorus
This year saw another first for the BBC Singers: a tour to Singapore at the invitation of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, to join them in three performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in celebration of their 36th anniversary. We stayed in the Central Business District of Singapore, all elegant skyscrapers with gleaming surfaces, brand new shopping malls and futuristic parks,...
Editor, Live Music, BBC Radio 3
(L-R) Dame Evelyn Glennie, Danielle de Niese, Katie Derham, Nicholas Collon and pupils from Luton Music Service celebrate the launch of the 2015 BBC Proms ©BBC / Andrew Hayes-Watkins
This is always an exciting day for Radio 3: the moment when the truly salivating line-up of concerts and events that make up the world’s biggest classical music festival is revealed, and we begin in earnest the incredibly detailed planning that goes into broadcasting every Prom live. The technical challenges are huge ‒ in the course of a single day the team of highly skilled studio managers...
Controller, BBC Radio 3
Photo: Mark Allan/BBC
You may have read reports on comments I made this week about levels of classical music literacy now compared to the era of the Third Programme. The reports were given headlines that didn't really reflect what I actually said. Therefore I’d like to expand on my comments here and put them back in the context in which they were delivered.
I was asked about the challenges facing me as...
Resident Composer BBC NOW
Time to Write
The orchestra rehearsals are about to begin in advance of the premiere of A Violence of Gifts. I find the days immediately before rehearsals an unsettling time – a strange mixture of disquiet and anticipation. I think it’s due to the imminent transition from having a new work exist only in your mind to having it brought suddenly and vividly to life by musicians. As I prepare for this experience, I find thinking back to the solitude of the early stages of writing the music helps to calm my nerves…
I hadn’t paid much attention to the North Polar Vortex until the day before I...
Resident Composer BBC NOW
As Owen and I emerged from the plane at Geneva airport, grateful to have our feet safely on the ground once more, it occurred to me we would soon be below ground, inside the sonorous caverns of the Large Hadron Collider. We had arrived at CERN – the European Organisation for Nuclear Research – straddling the Franco-Swiss border for our research trip supported by a grant from...
Radio 3 Presenter
On Saturday 14 March at 10.30pm I shall be presenting Hear and Now, live from Café Oto in Hackney, London. The programme comprises two 4 channel, surround-sound pieces by the Spanish sound artist Francisco Lopez. Radio 3 shall be broadcasting these new works in 4.0 surround-sound, as well as in stereo, and the programme shall be available, in 4 channels, on our website for one month after the...