Paul Kildea interview on BBC Front Row

Paul Kildea, author of Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century was interviewed by journalist Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row earlier this week, answering questions pertaining to his sources for the book, his views on Britten’s music and whether or not he’ll be changing the copy before the book is released as a paperback.

Listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. There’s also a SoundCloud player below that which should appear on most devices.

BBC Front Row – Paul Kildea – Britten Biography Interview – January 2013

Extracts from Benjamin Britten: A Life In the Twentieth Century feature in the Radio 4 Book of the Week from 4 to 8 February 2013.

Benjamin Britten vs. Sid James

The likeness between composer Benjamin Britten and notorious lethario and Carry On star Sid James is uncanny. Judge for yourself below.

Benjamin Britten and Sid James Lookalike

I can’t lay claim to having identified the resemblance myself. In the great tradition of media cliches, this idea is not my own. It’s someone elses. I’ve nicked it. What makes me a classy fella though, is that I’m prepared to be transparent about my mild deception. Not everyone is prepared to be so honest in the competitive media world, I hasten to add. So, stick with me. I’m one of the good ones.

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Petra Mede announced as Eurovision 2013 host

Petra Mede: Funny. Pretty. Swedish.

Swedish broadcaster SVT announced that comedian and TV presenter Petra Mede will host the Eurovision Song Conetst semi-final and final shows in May.

During a press conference streamed live on the internet by SVT – an event bound to perplex anyone who regards the Eurovision as an annual event to be endured only with a fully stocked drinks cabinet nearby – Mede answered questions from journalists.

Chat rooms, Twitter and a handful of water-coolers across Europe had played host to much pre-match speculation. In the end, those sensible discerning Swedes went with tried and tested talent . The reaction amongst fans (the British ones, at least) seemed positive bordering on the warm.
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Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma on BBC Four

BBC Four are re-running John Bridcut’s excellent 90 minute documentary on Frederick Delius this Friday evening. Something definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

In addition to throwing light on a man most reckon they know through his evocative imagery of the British countryside in the likes of The Walk To The Paradise Garden and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Springthe documentary also includes some breathtaking footage of conductor Sir Thomas Beecham in interview in 1957. Had Beecham been alive today, I suspect his publicist would have thought twice before letting him step in front of the camera (not to mention some of the other slightly dubious activities he was party to).

Jessica Duchen has a cracking summary on the Independent website.

Classical Source wrote of the film:

This is a well-made, engrossing and illuminating 90-minute film that will appeal both to the composer’s devotees and also anyone keen to know more about Delius, a “strange man”, whose music ravishes the ear and paints pictures, and which is described as “sensual and passionate with underlying eroticism.”

Scott Grønmark said:

Many are put off by the music’s lack of development, and it’s true that most of Delius’s most famous pieces don’t seem to actually go anywhere: they just are. Fortunately, I’m too musically ignorant to discern the lack of direction or structure, so I don’t really care. All I know is that the music is ravishingly, stunningly, overwhelmingly, immersively beautiful. In the right circumstances, it washes through one’s central nervous system like a drug.


Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma
is on BBC Four on Friday 1 February 2013 at 7.30pm and available via BBC iPlayer for seven days after that.

Hospitals, hips & funeral marches: Britten’s Old Abram Brown

Eerily Quiet Hospital corridorThe sound of a boys choir – individual voices straining earnestly for the top notes – lingers in the corridors of the West Suffolk hospital. Rubber-clad feet squeak on the polished floor. The smell of medical-grade disinfectant blurs the line between life and death. This is not where I want to be.

“Stay in the house,” she said without a hint of what I might find in the back garden. “Stay in the house and keep an eye out for the ambulance.” The thin pane of frosted glass rattled in its inadequate frame as she slammed the back door behind her. Silence.

I’d only ever seen an ambulance on television, a window on a 2D world. Shaky cameras held by panicked cameramen followed emergency vehicles careering up the streets of Belfast on the evening news each night.

Closer to home, similarly precarious-looking white boxes on wheels occupied the shot at the end of the more sedate slow-pan my father used filming the aftermath of a road traffic accident for local TV news.

The ambulance I saw parked up on the pavement at the top of our driveway looked incongruous. Oversized and cumbersome, it was almost as though the vehicle had got itself lost and ended up outside our house, unceremoniously depositing its occupants on the path in contempt for their own incompetence at navigating.

From the lounge I stood and followed the sight of my Mum runing from the end of the garden, past the window at the side of the house and towards the gate at the front of the house. There was a pause before the gate swung open and the green-clad medics skipped through the gap and ran into the garden. I watched them as they passed the front window, then the side window, picking up speed slightly at the back when they’d clocked the subject of the call.

The fact my curiosity had been suppressed was a testament to the way in which my mother had handled the situation, a sign in itself that this was an extraordinary situation. Detail was played out in the silent movie played out through the windows of our lounge. The two medics who had entered our garden with a trolly, now left it considerably more slowly with a mound on top of it covered in a bright red blanket. One held a drip up high, the other pushed the trolly towards the gate. The only person I hadn’t seen in all of this was my father, and the last time I saw him was at breakfast.

The back door slammed shut. The lock turned. “Come on, we’re following your father to the hospital.”

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