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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.




Composer of the Week: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): Suspicion and Imprisonment

Donald Macleod focuses on the time when Saint-Georges led his men into battle.


Composer of the Week: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): Betting with the Prince of Wales

Donald Macleod discusses Chevalier de Saint-Georges's wager with the Prince of Wales.


Composer of the Week: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): The Darling of Parisian Society

Donald Macleod focuses on how Saint-Georges became popular in Parisian society.


Composer of the Week: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): An American in Paris

Donald Macleod focuses on Saint-Georges's arrival in Paris.


Edward Elgar

Donald Macleod explores Edward Elgar’s music through the locations that inspired him. Worcester-born, with his roots in the beautiful English countryside around Hereford and the Malverns yet drawn to the bright lights of London, English composer Edward Elgar moved house a lot. He lived in over 25 residences in his lifetime, stayed with friends, travelled often for work and pleasure in the UK, Europe and further afield, and had a number of second homes he rented as retreats. This week we’re...


Antonio Vivaldi

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Antonio Vivaldi. As a virtuoso violinist, as a teacher, as a priest and as a prolific composer, Antonio Vivaldi was a key figure in Baroque Italy and remains one of the most famous names in classical music today. In this episode, Donald begins by exploring Vivaldi’s intrinsic link with his birth city, Venice, through a series of images. Next, he examines the depth of Vivaldi’s faith – as an ordained priest who didn’t say mass, there have been...


James MacMillan

Donald Macleod talks to composer James MacMillan as he celebrates his 60th birthday One of the UK’s most prolific living composers, James MacMillan was born on the 16th of July 1959 in Ayrshire. His grandfather introduced him to brass band music and his primary teacher taught him the recorder. The combination of these musical experiences sparked a lifelong passion in James to make and create music of his own. As well as James’s journey into music, we’ll hear about the birth of James’s...


Carl Nielsen

Donald Macleod explores Carl Nielsen’s worldview through his music. You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world...


CPE Bach

Donald Macleod tells the story of the loss - and later rediscovery - of CPE Bach’s music Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was many things in his lifetime: composer, virtuoso harpsichord player and improviser extraordinaire, author, businessman – publishing his own music – biographer – of his father and other members of his family, and teacher. This week we look at CPE Bach's music and reputation in the light of the sensational rediscovery of much of his archive in 1999. Throughout the episode we'll...


Fryderyk Chopin

Donald Macleod explores “the poet of the piano”, Fryderyk Chopin. Donald starts this week’s episode with a look at how Chopin’s Polish heritage shaped his music. Although he left the country at the age of 20, dance forms like the polonaise and mazurka left a strong mark on his writing. Next, we catch fleeting glimpses of the composer through his letters, and his relationship with his instrument, the piano. Chopin’s reticence to perform made his rare appearances extremely lucrative, but he...


Jacques Offenbach

Donald Macleod on Jacques Offenbach - maestro of the Cancan and much more besides. Today’s episode we meet Offenbach on the brink of defeat – when he decides to launch his own theatre company, ‘Les Bouffes-Parisiens’ in a tiny wooden shack on the Champs-Elysées. It was an instant and enduring success; over the next quarter-century, more than 50 of Offenbach’s musical comedies were to début there. We get an insight into the character of this driven creative artist – the man who “cannot stop...


England's Golden Age

Donald Macleod introduces six composers who flourished under the rule of Elizabeth I. The composers of 16th century England flourished under the rule of Elizabeth I, rapidly developing a diverse musical culture unparalleled anywhere on the continent, a truly Golden Age for English music. In this week of programmes Donald Macleod explores six composers who were key to this ascent - Thomas Morley, John Bull, Peter Philips, Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins. These composers...


Dmitry Shostakovich

Donald Macleod explores the music of Dmitry Shostakovich through the lens of his family life. In this week’s episode, Donald introduces us to Shostakovich - the family man. Turning his attention to the middle of the Russian composer's life, we hear the story of his relationships with his two children (Galina, born in 1936, and Maxim, born in 1938) and his first wife Nina, who he was married to from 1935 until her death in 1954. Starting with the complicated early days of building a family,...


Igor Stravinsky

Donald Macleod surveys the life and music of Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky. In this week’s episode, Donald explores the composer who is said, in his music, to have ushered in the 20th century: Igor Stravinsky. His name is probably still most associated with the utterly extraordinary, revolutionary evening that prompted that accolade – the premiere of The Rite of Spring in Paris on the 29th of May 1913. We’ll hear about his pivotal relationships with fellow musician Rimsky-Korsakov,...


Amy Beach

Donald Macleod follows Amy Beach’s quest to create a uniquely American sound in her music. Amy Beach was born in the 19th century and, like all women composers of her generation, she found her path to greatness strewn with obstacles. This week, Donald Macleod charts her struggle to take control of her own destiny and become one of America’s most cherished cultural figures; a composer who helped lead her nation into the mainstream of classical music. Famed conductor, Leopold Stokowski noted...


Handel, Messiah and Dublin

Donald Macleod tells the real story behind one of the most popular masterpieces ever composed. In 1741 Handel packed his bags and left London for Dublin, where he spent nearly nine months writing and performing in the city. The main work that he premiered there was a new oratorio which proved to be one of the landmarks of his career. Across the week we hear the whole of Handel’s Messiah, uncover the secrets of its origins and dispel the myths that still surround it. To begin this week’s...


Alban Berg

Donald Macleod surveys the life, loves and music of Alban Berg. As a youngster, Berg loved the music of Brahms, Mahler and Richard Strauss and composed 34 songs as a teenager. Maybe this would have been the end of it, but his brother Charly secretly took some of these songs to show a music professor in the city - Arnold Schoenberg. This week’s episode begins with a look at their stimulating but often turbulent relationship. Donald tells the story of Berg’s long marriage to Viennese beauty...


Joseph Haydn

Donald Macleod explores the prolific life of Joseph Haydn, with a spotlight on his masses Joseph Haydn’s prodigious creativity earned him the titles Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. However, he was also occupied with sacred music throughout his career. This week, as Donald Macleod follows Haydn’s journey from humble choirboy to Europe’s most celebrated composer, he shines the spotlight on music from Haydn’s many settings of the Mass. It's music that is as chock-full...


Francis Poulenc

Donald Macleod surveys the life and work of Francis Poulenc, a man full of contradictions This week Donald Macleod explores five aspects of Poulenc’s personality and how they find expression in his music. 'In Poulenc there is something of the monk and something of the rascal' said the composer’s friend Claude Rostand - but there were other sources of inspiration that drove him. From the gregarious exploits of his youth to his serious engagement with Catholicism, from schmoozing in high...


Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber

Donald Macleod explores the music, and what little is known of the life, of Baroque master Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. Biber’s first appearance in the historical records is in his early 20s, when we find him in the service of Karl Liechtenstein, prince-bishop of Olomouc in central Moravia. In this week’s episode, we meet Biber as he runs an errand for his boss, but mysteriously absconds en route, trading in his old employer for a new and even more illustrious one, Prince-Archbishop...