Daniel Hope explores the history of the violin.

Daniel Hope explores the history of the violin.

International violinist Daniel Hope examines the mysteries of the violin. No one knows who invented it and it was often seen as the Devil's instrument, certainly one that most resembles the human voice and thought at one time to be able to steal men's souls. Exploring its history, Hope offers up his own thoughts on the violin's musical DNA, what he calls the 'soul and feeling of the violin' that can be traced back to countries as diverse as Mongolia, China, India and Arabia. As well as featuring music from the four corners of the world, the programme looks at the transformation of the bow as a tool of war to an instrument of music. And there's a rare chance for Daniel to get his hands on an early instrument built by a descendant of the Father of the Violin, Andrea Amati, on which he plays excerpts from the earliest published violin sonata, written in 1610.


Anne Sebba tells the story of celebrated concert pianist Harriet Cohen, considered to be one of the most intriguing musical figures of the 20th Century. A musician with a vast repertoire, she have more first performances of works than any other pianist of her day, but is scarcely known today.

Long-fascinated by Cohen's story, Anne has read the 3,000 letters bequeathed to the British library to try to understand how Cohen's tempestuous private life impacted on her public performing life. Some music critics believe she was the inspiration for much of Bax's finest music. Others claim that she was jealous and possessive and responsible for preventing many of his pieces becoming better known.

Anne Sebba tells the story of celebrated concert pianist Harriet Cohen.


Tom Service delves into Ravel's La valse, considered to be one of the most original and enigmatic works in all music.

While it is presented as a charming Viennese waltz in the style of Johann Strauss, La valse begins first to dismantle the form, and then finally to take an orchestral sledgehammer to it. Ravel refused to be drawn on what prompted this violent and exhilarating work, but some have taken the view that it is a perfect picture of an out-of-control Europe heading inexorably towards the Second World War.

With contributions from conductor Eliahu Inbal, composer George Benjamin, Ravel biographer Roger Nichols and David Lamaze, who claims to have discovered in La valse a hidden clue to its composer's intent.

Tom Service looks at the dark beauty of Ravel's masterpiece La valse.


Rob Cowan explores the attraction of composers to the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Whitman's poetry has inspired many musical works, with around 1,200 vocal and instrumental settings, by figures including Vaughan Williams, Delius, Bernstein, Ives, Weill, Hindemith, Holst and John Adams.

Some of the earliest settings were by English composers, who saw in his work the possibility of liberation from Victorian jingoism. He represented optimism and renewal - a celebration of free speech and free love. Whitman's poetry also became a potent force during the Second World War for both Weill and Hindemith.

Weaving together readings of his poetry with some of the music, the programme also includes contributions from David Reynolds, author of Walt Whitman's America, on the influence of music on the poet's verse; M Wynn Thomas on the radical qualities of his poetry; and Jack Sullivan on musical responses to Whitman.

Charles Valentin Alkan20090425