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The sound of mortality

American pianist Jonathan Biss on late works, Fiona Maddocks on music 'to carry you through', Edinburgh's new concert hall, plus the sound of the Jungle - music recorded in the Calais migrant camp. With Sara Mohr-Pietsch.

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45 minutes

Last on

Mon 21 Nov 2016 22:00


  • Late Style

    Duration: 15:02

  • Edinburgh’s new concert hall

    Duration: 05:00

  • The Calais Sessions

    Duration: 12:59

  • Music to carry you through

    Duration: 09:22

Late Style

Late Style

Beethoven’s piano sonata, Op. 111. Schubert’s Schwanengesang. Brahms’s Six pieces for piano, Op. 119 - all were written as the composers approached the end of their lives, and all have become a source of fascination for the American pianist Jonathan Biss, who performs them as part of his ‘Late Style’ concert series. 

“Everybody has their own issues with mortality - it’s a huge, frightening thing,” says Biss. “Art is there, in part, to help us work through the things we find difficult.”

From Mozart’s placid final works to Brahms’s grim reckoning with death, Biss shares his insights into how some of the giant figures of classical music responded to their final days - whether they stepped calmly towards their end, or raged against the dying of the light.

Music to carry you through

Music to carry you through

Before the final curtain falls, there is a life to be lived – with all its twists and tribulations. And in the iPod era, music – more than ever - the soundtrack to our joys and exasperations. So which pieces should go on your playlist, come what may? Music critic Fiona Maddocks suggests 100 works ‘to carry you through’, in her new book, Music for Life. 

Championing lesser known works, and nudging audiences towards less popular composers, Maddocks explains how she compiled a list of works to accompany listeners through love, grief, conflict and consolation – and why she could not imagine a life without music. 

Edinburgh’s new concert hall

Edinburgh’s new concert hall

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has launched a proposal to build a new mid-sized concert hall in Edinburgh. If the proposal comes to fruition, the new hall will be part of a larger arts centre in the heart of the Scottish capital.

The orchestra’s Chief Executive, Gavin Reid, says the estimated £45m project would allow the SCO to develop new partnerships and reach new audiences. 

The Scotsman’s classical music critic, Ken Walton, explains why he believes the new hall is essential to Edinburgh’s cultural future, despite the city already being home to two other concert venues.

The Calais Sessions

The Calais Sessions

Until it was dismantled in October, the Calais camp – known as The Jungle – was home to 10,000 migrants living in desperate conditions. In the summer before it was closed, a small group of musicians set up a makeshift studio in the camp, and recorded some of the music the migrants had brought with them on their journeys. 

Led by cellist Vanessa Lucas-Smith, the project resulted in a CD, The Calais Sessions, recorded by visiting instrumentalists alongside musicians living in the camp. 

Jungle resident Rekan Ibrahimi describes his life in the camp, while UK-based violinist Bogdan Vacarescu explains the part he played in the Calais Sessions, and the former director of the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar, David Wilson, offers his view of how music can transform lives, even in the most appalling circumstances.


Role Contributor
Presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch
Interviewed Guest Jonathan Biss
Interviewed Guest Fiona Maddocks
Interviewed Guest Vanessa Lucas-Smith
Interviewed Guest David Wilson
Jonathan Biss image Benjamin Ealovega
Fiona Maddocks image The Observer
SCO Violinists image Marco Borggreve
Rekan Ibrahimi image Ed Emery


  • Sat 19 Nov 2016 12:15
  • Mon 21 Nov 2016 22:00

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