György Ligeti's Private Passions

BBC Radio 3's Private Passions is one of my favourite radio programmes. The format is deceptively simple. Personalities from the arts and public life are asked to play the music that is important to them, and explain why. Central to the success of the programme is the presenter Michael Berkeley, who has pretty impressive credentials. He is a well known broadcaster and journalist, son of Sir Lennox Berkeley, was a very successful Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music, and is one of our leading contemporary composers with commissions including a Concerto for Orchestra for the 2005 BBC Proms season. The programme has led me on several invaluable overgrown paths, including those to Swedish pianist Jan Johansson, and Norwegian singer Radka Toneff's sublime interpretation of Weill. You can listen to the latest Private Passions programme with this link.

In 2005 Private Passions celebrated ten years of broadcasting. And to celebrate Faber have published an eponymous book (right) compiled by Michael Berkeley. Again the format is deceptively simple. The musical choices (including recording and catalogue number) for every guest on the programme are listed, together with very brief notes. There is also a fascinating league table of composer popularity. Not surprisingly J.S.Bach is top with 222 airings, John Adams ties with William Byrd and Lennon and McCartney at 15, while Pierre Boulez at 8 playings ties with Rodgers and Hart! The book runs to 386 pages, and makes the most fascinating reading. This is a book to savour, to dip into, and return to time and time again.

So for the autumn On An Overgrown Path is going to include a weekly spot featuring the musical choices of one interesting guest on Private Passions, starting this week with György Ligeti (lead picture) whose choices were:

* Nancarrow, Study No. 3a, Conlon Nancarrow (player piano) Wergo WER 6168-2
* Trad., 'Gending: Dhenggung Turulare', Langen Praja Seven Seas KICC 5184 (Pliable - Javanese gamelan, follow this link for audio files)
* Trad., 'Piere', Etienne Ngbozo (small sanza and voice) / Joseph Sasmba (large sanza) / Daniel Hgadike, Robert Tarapai, Raymond Doko (voice, rattle and percussion sticks) Ocorra c 580008(Pliable - African drumming)
* Trad., Whistle Ensemble, Banda-Linda Ensemble Auvidis/UNESCO 8020 (Pliable - African ethnic music)
* Claude Vivier, Lonely Child, Susan Narucki (soprano) / Schonberg and Asko Ensembles / Reinbert de Leeuw Philips 454 231-2
* Beethoven, Sonata in C minor, Op. 11 (second movement), Alfred Brendel (piano) Philips 446 701-2

Programme broadcast on 22nd November 1997
Listen to the latest BBC Radio 3 Private Passions programme
with this link
Information taken for promotional purposes only from Private Passions by Michael Berkeley published by Faber ISBN 0-571-22884-4 which you are strongly recommended to buy.
Image credits:
György Ligeti -
Private Passions book - Faber

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My first classical record


Kathy said…
Thanks for pointing this out. I will be investigating it.

We used to have a program on NPR here where the premise was that a celebrity had to choose to spend a year on a desert island or in a secluded cabin, and they would be be provided with all necessities. They had to tell the interviewer what else they would bring with them (books, music, etc.). I found it to be pretty interesting what people consider to be "essential" reading, viewing, and listening.

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