Episodes

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01Thomas Tallis20201207Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers the faith lives of four very different composers.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium, Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to share these beliefs in any way, to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music?

Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Thomas Tallis witnessed England's faith switch four times in his life, yet he cleverly survived without persecution to live into his 80s. He composed through the reign of Henry VIII who broke away from Rome to create the Church of England. Then, he had to totally switch his compositional style to please Edward VI. Mary I was a Catholic which signalled a return to earlier techniques. And finally, Protestant Elizabeth I required a different type of religious music again.

James MacMillan talks with conductors Harry Christophers, Peter Phillips and Suzi Digby about the sort of man Thomas Tallis must have been to not only survive the religious and political upheavals that he witnessed throughout his life, but also to compose some of the most magnificent English choral music ever written.

The programme features the following music by Tallis:
Salvator mundi
If ye love me
Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater
Puer natus est nobis
Lamentations of Jeremiah
Spem in alium

Plus: O Radiant Dawn by James MacMillan

Produced by Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer production for BBC Radio 4

James MacMillan considers composer Thomas Tallis's complex life and religious faith.

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

02Richard Wagner20201214Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers the faith lives of four very different composers.

James talks with Professor Richard Bell, Barbara Eichner and Stephen Johnson. They discuss ways in which Richard Wagner’s religious upbringing, political experiences and wide reading of philosophy and theology informed and imbued his colossal music dramas.

And James reveals his own obsession with Wagner, which began in teenage years, and describes ways in which Wagner has influenced his own compositions.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium, Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to share these beliefs in any way, to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music?

Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Produced by Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer production for BBC Radio 4

James MacMillan considers composer Richard Wagner's complex life and religious faith.

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

03Edward Elgar20201221

Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers Sir Edward Elgar's complex life and religious faith as an English composer living through times of great distress and turmoil.

Following the somewhat disastrous premiere of his oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar complained, "I always said God was against art and I still believe it. I have allowed my heart to open once - it is now shut against every religious feeling and every soft, gentle impulse forever."

James talks with Em Marshall-Luck, Stephen Johnson and Joanna Bullivant about Elgar's religious upbringing and the triumphs and tragedies of his life which were reflected in his attitude towards faith and religion.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium, Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to share these beliefs in any way, to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music?

Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Produced by Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer production for BBC Radio 4

James MacMillan considers composer Edward Elgar's complex life and religious faith.

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

03Edward Elgar20201221Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers Sir Edward Elgar's complex life and religious faith as an English composer living through times of great distress and turmoil.

Following the somewhat disastrous premiere of his oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar complained, "I always said God was against art and I still believe it. I have allowed my heart to open once - it is now shut against every religious feeling and every soft, gentle impulse forever."

James talks with Em Marshall-Luck, Stephen Johnson and Joanna Bullivant about Elgar's religious upbringing and the triumphs and tragedies of his life which were reflected in his attitude towards faith and religion.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium, Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to share these beliefs in any way, to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music?

Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Produced by Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer production for BBC Radio 4

James MacMillan considers composer Edward Elgar's complex life and religious faith.

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

04Leonard Bernstein20201228

Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers Leonard Bernstein's complex faith life and religious roots as a 20th-century composer living at a time of great change in the USA.

Marin Alsop once wrote: "The question of faith is woven through every Bernstein piece - even when there is no obvious religious component. For Bernstein, the crisis of the 20th century was a crisis of faith".

James talks with conductor Marin Alsop who was a student of Bernstein's. Also to Joshua R. Jacobson, one of the foremost authorities on Jewish choral music and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northeastern University. And to Bernstein biographer Humphrey Burton.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium; Wagner’s opera Parsifal; Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius; Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to in any way share these beliefs in order to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music? Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Producer: Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer Production

James MacMillan considers Leonard Bernstein\u2019s complex faith life and religious roots

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

04Leonard Bernstein20201228Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers Leonard Bernstein's complex faith life and religious roots as a 20th-century composer living at a time of great change in the USA.

Marin Alsop once wrote: "The question of faith is woven through every Bernstein piece - even when there is no obvious religious component. For Bernstein, the crisis of the 20th century was a crisis of faith".

James talks with conductor Marin Alsop who was a student of Bernstein's. Also to Joshua R. Jacobson, one of the foremost authorities on Jewish choral music and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northeastern University. And to Bernstein biographer Humphrey Burton.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium; Wagner’s opera Parsifal; Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius; Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to in any way share these beliefs in order to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music? Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Producer: Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer Production

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan considers Leonard Bernstein's complex faith life and religious roots as a 20th-century composer living at a time of great change in the USA.

Marin Alsop once wrote: "The question of faith is woven through every Bernstein piece - even when there is no obvious religious component. For Bernstein, the crisis of the 20th century was a crisis of faith".

James talks with conductor Marin Alsop who was a student of Bernstein's. Also to Joshua R. Jacobson, one of the foremost authorities on Jewish choral music and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northeastern University. And to Bernstein biographer Humphrey Burton.

Over the centuries, composers have created musical masterpieces which many listeners have come to regard as spiritual touchstones. For example, Tallis's motet Spem in alium; Wagner’s opera Parsifal; Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius; Bernstein's Mass. But what did these composers actually believe about God, faith, compassion, an afterlife and redemption? And do we need to in any way share these beliefs in order to have a spiritual experience as listeners to their music? Answers to these questions are complex, fascinating and challenging.

Producer: Rosie Boulton
A Must Try Softer Production

James MacMillan considers the faith of four very different composers.

Marin Alsop once wrote: "The question of faith is woven through every Bernstein piece - even when there is no obvious religious component. For Bernstein, the crisis of the 20th century was a crisis of faith".

James talks with conductor Marin Alsop who was a student of Bernstein's. Also to Joshua R. Jacobson, one of the foremost authorities on Jewish choral music and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northeastern University. And to Bernstein biographer Humphrey Burton.