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Composer of the Week


Donald Macleod offers an informative and accessible guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod offers an informative and accessible guide to composers and their music.
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London, United Kingdom




Donald Macleod offers an informative and accessible guide to composers and their music.




Karol Szymanowski

Donald Macleod explores the myriad influences on the life’s work of Karol Szymanowski. The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being reapportioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point disappeared for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to...


Composer of the Week: Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937): The rebirth of Polish music

Donald Macleod explores Szymanowski's interest in defining a Polish identity in his music.


Composer of the Week: Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937): Sicily's Antiquities

Donald Macleod charts Szymanowski's struggles to complete his only opera, King Roger.


Composer of the Week: Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937): From Italy to Africa

Donald Macleod assesses the musical impact of Szymanowski's years of travel.


Composer of the Week: Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937): From Warsaw to Berlin

Donald Macleod traces Szymanowski's fascination with Strauss and German Romanticism.


Composer of the Week: Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937): Tymoszówka

Donald Macleod explores Szymanowski’s cultured background, growing up on his famiy estate.


Ludwig van Beethoven: Why Beethoven?

Donald Macleod asks conductor Marin Alsop and historian Simon Schama why Beethoven's life and work still matter today. All through 2020, as part of Radio 3's Beethoven Unleashed season, Donald Macleod takes an unprecedented deep dive into the compelling story and extraordinary music of Ludwig van Beethoven. In this uniquely ambitious series, told across 125 episodes of Composer of the Week, Donald puts us inside Beethoven’s world and explores his hopes, struggles and perseverance in all the...


George Walker

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of George Walker, in conversation with his son Gregory. When Rosa King Walker announced to her five-year-old son George that, like it or not, he was going to have piano lessons, she can scarcely have been aware that she was dispatching him on a lifelong journey in music. He made his concerto début at the age of 23 playing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the great Eugene Ormandy. A stellar career on the concert...


Arcangelo Corelli

Donald Macleod delves into the international successes of Arcangelo Corelli. Arcangelo Corelli was something of a European phenomenon not only during his lifetime, but also after his death. His compositional output was not large, but the development of the printing press enabled his music to be widely circulated. Musically, he bridged the gap between the Baroque and the Classical periods, and is seen as pivotal in the development of the sonata and the concerto. Even today, Corelli’s music is...


Johannes Brahms

Donald Macleod explores the music of Johannes Brahms through his close relationships. Brahms was a deeply private man and very guarded about his life, his friends and his feelings. Across this week, Donald goes “Behind Closed Doors” with Brahms to discover what really made him tick. He finds friends, mentors and lovers along the way who together help solve the enigma of the composer. We’ll hear about Brahms’s doomed early romance with a young singer, Agathe von Siebold, plus his lifelong...


Percy Grainger

Donald Macleod surveys the life, music and quirks of Australian composer, Percy Grainger Donald Macleod begins this week episode about Percy Grainger by tracing the composer's ambivalent relationship with his primary musical instrument, the piano, and the ever-present influence of his mother. He then follows Grainger to London, where his composing took second place to performing, leading to concert tours of Scandinavia, South Africa, New Zealand and back home to Australia. We’ll also hear...


Leoš Janáček

Donald Macleod illustrates Leos Janacek’s inner tensions through five key relationships One of the most original voices of the twentieth century, Leoš Janáček was a composer, musical theorist, folklorist and teacher. Born in 1854 in the Moravian village of Hukvaldy, which was then part of the Austrian Empire, in his youth German was the language of government, education and social influence. Having returned from studies in Germany, Janáček made detailed studies of native folk song and spent...


Mary Lou Williams

Donald Macleod charts the extraordinary life of composer and jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams Mary Lou Williams’ music stands out from the crowd because, as Duke Ellington recognised, “her writing and performing have always been just a little ahead throughout her career.” A prolific composer and arranger, she was also a gifted pianist. A master of blues, boogie woogie, stride, swing and be-bop, Williams was quick to absorb the prevailing musical currents in her own music, naturally able to...


Malcolm Arnold

Donald Macleod journeys through some of the contrasting sides of Sir Malcolm Arnold and his music Sir Malcolm Arnold was a prolific composer, writing music in many different genres ranging from nine symphonies and over twenty concertos, to chamber music, music for brass bands and nearly one hundred and twenty film scores. These many works for film include classics such as Hobson’s Choice, Whistle Down the Wind, the St Trinian’s films, and The Bridge on the River Kwai for which he won an...


Antonín Dvořák

Donald Macleod explores the life, music and perseverance of Antonín Dvořák. Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to...


Harrison Birtwistle

Donald Macleod talks to Sir Harrison Birtwistle about his life, inspiration and music. This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation.” We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination. To begin, we’ll hear about, Birtwistle’s daily working life, and about his early years among what became known as the...


Muzio Clementi

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of piano prodigy Muzio Clementi. Muzio Clementi was one of the 18th and 19th century’s most revered musicians – a star performer, a composer admired by Czerny, Beethoven and Chopin and an astute musical businessman. However, he also had his detractors in his own time and history hasn’t been as kind to him as to the greater names of his time – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Today his name is unfamiliar to most but it is certainly better known than...


Sergei Prokofiev

Donald Macleod explores the music of Sergei Prokofiev and tells the story of his American dream. After a series of revolutions in his native Russia, the young composer Sergei Prokofiev made the decision to leave his homeland and to head to the United States in search of fame and fortune. His years in the United States would turn into some of the most tumultuous of his life. Across this week, Donald explores how those years in exile and how it would prove to be one of his most challenging...


Gustav Mahler

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler through five key themes. This week’s episode begins with an exploration of love - a potent force in Mahler’s creative armoury, but, for Mahler’s wife Alma, it came at a heavy price. Mahler was also obsessed with human mortality, but that became all too real with the tragic death of his daughter Maria. We’ll also hear about the composer’s ambivalent relationship to religion. Despite his lack of adherence to a particular creed,...


Henry Purcell

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Henry Purcell. Frustratingly little is known about the tragically abbreviated life of the composer who is arguably Britain’s greatest, Henry Purcell. Purcell kept no diary of his own – at least none has survived – and if he was active as a letter-writer, precious little of his correspondence has come down to us. Our evidence for the facts of the composer’s life appears in a sequence of glimpses – a portrait here, an anecdote there, unvarnished...