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The week ahead on Essential Classics – Julian Barnes and the Labèque sisters

Friday 11 October 2013, 11:56

Sarah Walker Sarah Walker Presenter, Essential Classics

Julian Barnes

It is SUCH hard work. Being forced to read great books by interesting people and then having to MEET them…phew! I shouldn’t joke. Meeting the Essential Classics guests is one of the most enriching aspects of my work. Every guest brings something new to the table, and it’s fascinating to look at music through the eyes of someone who’s an expert in a completely different field. Julian Barnes is my guest this week, so yes, I’ve been reading a fair bit, and enjoying his prize-winning novel The Sense of an Ending. I am very curious to ask Julian about how it feels to win the Man Booker Prize.  I imagine the professional writer’s life to be a challenging one: so much loneliness, the strong opinions of critics, the uncertain rewards. Does such a prize change everything? Or maybe just for a little while? And can music help to keep our feet on the ground at such a time?

Julian Barnes Julian Barnes

(photo: Alan Edwards)


CD of the Week and the Labèque sisters 

Certainly for me, classical music provides a reassuring sense of a stable, positive force in a constantly changing world. The orchestral works of Grieg have a certain comfort factor, I think, without being too sentimental, and that’s why I’ve chosen a set of his complete orchestral music as my new CD of the week – Neeme Jarvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

Also this week I’ve recordings from the Labèque sisters – every single recording, a total gem, and perhaps my favourite of all is the sweetest and simplest, Debussy’s Petite Suite (going out on Monday).

BTW, following ‘Rob’s shed’ I thought readers might like to see my own  – “The Hut” – where I work on the programme. I have taken the hint about pictures of Basil, and will not be submitting any in the foreseeable future… ;-)

Sarah's Hut Sarah's Hut

If you’d like to get in touch please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch via email or Twitter:

Email: essentialclassics@bbc.co.uk

Twitter: #essentialclassics


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Liked the use of Cyrillic for Кирилл Петрович Кондрашин in the online schedule. Who says Essential Classics is dumbed down Radio 3? ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    In support of Mr. Barnes' comments on the show regarding the New Rules of the Man Booker Prize, I'd like to point out that, still relatively unknown, the Jamaican slave ancestry of the founder had not been factored into the Foundation's decision.

    This is regrettable since "Jock" or John Middleton Campbell, Lord Campbell of Eskan represents an almost unimaginably ideal and even redemptive resolution to the glaring contradictions of being a descendant of slaves, slave traders, and a number of the most important banking families in Great Britain.

    His 1995 obituary by Peter Parker in The Independent, for instance, jocularly opened with a flurry of the labels he’d been stuck with over the years such as the Enlightened Businessman, Labour Peer, Socialist Industrialist, Idealist Realist.

    The reason for such hagiographical accolades was his famous reformation of the family's sugar business in British Guiana which by 1939 had taken over Booker Brothers. The owner of practically all the sugar plantations in the area this company had become by then, a state within a state, with such a stranglehold on the economic life of the colony it was referred to as “Booker’s Guiana.” According to Parker, "Campbell's role in the politics of sugar became a dominant commitment of his life. During the war he played a crucial lead in the creation of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which set a firmer structure for sugar pricing. This transformed the quality of life for those peoples producing sugar in developing countries, including the 60,000 Booker workers in the West Indies."

    Considering the racism of the period, Campbell's slave ancestry would have played no small part in making Demerara his Damascus and, as a result, undoubtedly the ethos out of which his idea for the Prize evolved.

    I'm hoping, therefore, that this recently discovered detail of Lord Campbell of Escan's genealogy will add something very tangible to the growing discomfort regarding such a prestigious award's loss of its Commonwealth identity and that it could perhaps be used to persuade the administrators of the Booker Foundation to reconsider their decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Thanks Mario, some very interesting background there. Julian Barnes has been a very stimulating guest for us - there's been a lot of interest in his comments on the Booker. A very musical man, too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Bryn, naturally I read from the Cyrillic when announcing on the radio...;-)
    PS Thanks for letting me know about the broken link on my website!


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