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Thea Musgrave

Donald Macleod is in conversation with Thea Musgrave as she celebrates her 90th birthday

Donald Macleod is in conversation with Thea Musgrave as she celebrates her 90th birthday.

Donald and Thea begin by discussing her dream of becoming a composer, and the dreams that have inspired her works. Born in Edinburgh, Thea left her medical degree for music, winning a composition prize which took her to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. A dream about a subversive clarinettist helped formed the idea for her breakthrough commission from the CBSO, the Concerto for Orchestra. They talk about her early electronic experimentation, and her idea of the dramatic abstract, where she experiments with spatial configurations of players and acoustic possibilities. Thea is also one of Britain’s most prolific living opera composers, bringing to the stage stories of figures like Mary Queen of Scots, Harriet Tubman, and Simón Bolívar. In 1970 she was offered the post of Guest Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and has lived and made her life as a composer in the States ever since. Donald asks her about her approach to teaching and encouraging young composers. They look at the importance of visual art in Thea’s life and imagination, leading to significant compositions inspired by Edward Hopper and J. M. W. Turner. Finally, Thea reflects on the continuing pleasure she derives from composing, as well as her on-going friendships with players, and she stresses the vital part that music plays in all of our lives.

Music featured:
Driving in the Highlands (Excursions for piano duet)
Four Madrigals
Rorate Coeli
Impromptu for flute and oboe
Concerto for Orchestra
Niobe for oboe and pre-recorded tape
Concerto for horn and orchestra
Wild Winter I
The Peace Chorus (Mary Queen of Scots, Act 1)
The Seasons
Helios - Concerto for oboe and orchestra
On the Underground, Set 2: The Strange and the Exotic
Night Windows for oboe and piano
Turbulent Landscapes for orchestra
On the Underground, Set 1: Sometimes
Songs for a Winter’s Evening
Two’s Company – a concerto for percussion and orchestra

Presenter: Donald Macleod
Producer: Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Thea Musgrave:

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here:

Release date:

Available now

1 hour, 10 minutes