Ghost Variations

By Jessica Duchen

The strangest detective story in the history of music

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Mirren, Marin and me

I was extremely fortunate - thanks to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - to be drafted in to a discussion on BBC Radio 4's "Women's Hour" this morning to talk about the Schumann Violin Concerto and how Jelly d'Arányi rediscovered it. I was sidekick to the dynamic conductor Marin Alsop, who is wielding the baton over the piece tonight (Thursday) in Basingstoke and on Saturday evening in the Royal Festival Hall. In 2013 Marin became the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms and she is the closest thing the rather limited sphere of women conductors has to a household name.

Live radio is fairly terrifying, but "Women's Hour" less so than "CD Review" or the "Today" programme... Jenni Murray was adorable and deeply impressive, and I think the discussion turned out well  - a good, varied story and some surprises too. I didn't know before, for instance, that Marin had known Yehudi Menuhin very well. Yehudi plays a small but terrifically important role in Ghost Variations. And it is both a joy and a privilege to share airwaves with an artist of her calibre.

The one disappointment is that we didn't get to meet Helen Mirren! When you go in to the studios, there's a Green Room where the guests-to-be assemble and can have a nice cup of tea while they wait. We were first on, so we met the next item - the authors of the books on divorce - but not the lady whose contribution would form the centrepiece of the programme, the great Mirren herself...

You can hear her - and us - on the BBC Listen Again facility, here.

Glad to say, too, that I will be joining Marin again on the panel of the pre-concert talk on Saturday evening at the Royal Festival Hall. The talk is in the open ballroom area behind the foyer and I think admission is free and open. Do come along if you can!

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