Published: 27 January 2023


Radio 3 continues to bring the best of music and culture from across the UK to audiences wherever they are and whenever they want to listen.— Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 Controller

Today BBC Radio 3 unveils details of its Spring Season 2023, with live music from across the UK at its heart, and performances broadcast from Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester, London and more, enhanced by dramas, essays, and documentaries, bringing great music and culture to everyone.

Highlights include:

  • Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s 80th birthday concert live from London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields
  • Isata Kanneh-Mason joining the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins presenting the broadcast premiere of Iain Bell’s Beowulf
  • The Tallis Scholars performing music by Tavener & Taverner at London’s Cadogan Hall
  • The broadcast premiere of contemporary opera Chernobyldorf by Ukranian composers Roman Grygoriv and Illia Razumeiko
  • Slow Radio: Wild Isles featuring sounds of wildlife from the British Isles as captured for the new BBC One series Wild Isles, presented by Sir David Attenborough
  • Rachmaninov at 150: a week of programming across BBC Radio 3 schedules, marking 150 years since Rachmaninov’s birth
  • A live edition of Music Matters marking International Women’s Day 2023, and featuring a discussion on inspirational women in music
  • Jazz Record Requests celebrating Nina Simone’s 90th birthday with a broadcast of part of her last ever UK radio interview with Alyn Shipton
  • Drama on 3: Bess loves Porgy transporting DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy to modern Bermondsey, London, with music by Mercury Prize-nominated producer Swindle and the BBC Concert Orchestra
  • Ultimate Calm with Ólafur Arnalds returning with a second series of twelve unique musical journeys into calm

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 Controller, says: “Radio 3 continues to bring the best of music and culture from across the UK to audiences wherever they are and whenever they want to listen. Our coverage spreads wide and goes deep, celebrating much loved and established giants such as Sir John Eliot Gardner and our New Generation Artists and Thinkers, who are the bright future of music and ideas.

From Bach’s B Minor mass, a new version of Chekhov’s The Seagull, to Radio 3’s commission of Iain Bell’s Beowulf, from the best of jazz to the contemplation of Compline, we give everyone a place and a reason to listen and to think, to take time out and find new worlds of imagination and insight in music and culture they may know and or may discover.”

Music highlights

Sir John Eliot Gardiner at 80 (Radio 3 in Concert, Monday 24 April): led by the revered conductor, the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir join forces to celebrate Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s 80th birthday with a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor broadcast live from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Good Friday Concert (Radio 3 in Concert, Friday 7 April) with the BBC Concert Orchestra live from King’s College Cambridge in a performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater.

BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo live from London’s Barbican Hall (Radio 3 in Concert, Friday 10 February) in a programme including Grazyna Bacewicz’s Symphony No.4, alongside music by Mozart and Szymanowski, with violinist Johan Dalene and viola player Timothy Ridout.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra live from Symphony Hall, Birmingham (Radio 3 in Concert, Wednesday 22 February) led by Ilan Volkov in a programme including Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with soloist Isata Kanneh-Mason, Sibelius’ The Oceanides and Symphony No.5, and a world premiere by Freya Waley-Cohen.

The broadcast premiere of Iain Bell’s Beowulf – a BBC Radio 3 commission with text from a translation by R.M Liuzza of the anonymous epic poem – performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with conductor Martyn Brabbins and tenor Stuart Skelton at London’s Barbican Hall (Radio 3 in Concert, Friday 21 April).

The Tallis Scholars and director Peter Phillips in music by Sir John Tavener and his Tudor namesake John Taverner (Radio 3 in Concert, Thursday 16 February) from Cadogan Hall in London;

Chornobyldorf (New Music Show, Saturday 11 March): the broadcast premiere of the contemporary opera by Ukrainian composers Roman Grygoriv and Illia Razumeiko, which received its UK premiere at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2022. Inspired by the impact of nuclear power on our world, combining folk and classical singing with physical theatre, dance, unique musical instruments and cinematic video-novels, Chornobyldorf explores the political transformations the world has undergone post-disaster, reflecting on the nature of climate catastrophe.

BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales celebrating St David’s Day (Afternoon Concert, Wednesday 1 March) with a performance of Arwel Hughes’ 70-minute oratorio Dewi Saint (Saint David) which was captured at Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall and is broadcast for the first time in a new recording featuring conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, Susan Bullock (Soprano), Rhodri Prys Jones (Tenor), Paul Carey Jones (Bass-Baritone);

Radio 3 New Generation Artists at the Elgar Concert Hall, University of Birmingham (Lunchtime Concert, Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 March): as part of the Barber Lunchtime Concert series, New Generation Artists the Mithras Trio, Alexander Gadjiev (piano), the Aris Quartet, and Helen Charlston (mezzo) performing music on the theme of journeys by Iván Erőd, Debussy, Schubert, and Clara Schumann among others;

Timothy Ridout and friends (Lunchtime Concert, Tuesday 28 February to Friday 3 March): John Toal introduces a Lunchtime Concert series featuring recent graduate of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme, British viola player Timothy Ridout. He’s joined by James Baillieu (piano), Tim Crawford (violin), Tim Posner (cello), Maria Wloszczowska (violin) and Ting-Ru Lai (viola) in music by Mozart, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Rebecca Clarke, Eric Coates, and Cecil Forsyth;

A spotlight on music making in Yorkshire including: Alim Beisembayev, winner of the 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition, returning to the city to present a programme of Bach, Liszt and Schubert in a concert recorded at The Venue (Radio 3 in Concert, Tuesday 31 January); and chamber group Ensemble 360 performing music by Suk, Vaughan Williams, Dohnányi, Smetana and Ravel in Barnsley, Sheffield and Doncaster at the autumn series of Music in the Round (Lunchtime Concert, Tuesday 31 January to Friday 3 February).

Other music highlights:

Rachmaninov at 150 (Sunday 26 March to Sunday 1 April)

Radio 3 marks 150 years since Rachmaninov’s birth (1 April 1873) with a week of programming across all schedules, including special episodes of:- Sunday Feature: Hypnotising Rachmaninov (Sunday 26 March): presented by Georgia Mann, the programme explores the impact of hypnosis on solving Rachmaninov’s composer’s block;- Composer of the Week (Monday 27 to Friday 31 March): a week of programmes devoted to Rachmaninov’s life and career.

Radio 3 in Concert (Thursday 30 March) 

The BBC Philharmonic, with conductor John Storgårds, presents Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead, in a performance at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, part of a programme also including music by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

Record Review – Building a Library (Saturday 1 April)

Marina Frolova-Walker chooses her favourite recording of the composer’s Symphonic Dances.

International Women’s Day 2023 (Saturday 4 to Friday 10 March)

For the ninth year in a row on International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March), Radio 3 dedicates its schedules to music by female composers only. During the day, the occasion is marked by special editions of:

  • Lunchtime Concert with all-female Ensemble Molière, the current BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble – a scheme run by the station with the National Centre for Early Music and the Royal College of Music. They present a special programme, recorded at Maida Vale studios, titled Femmes d ’excellence (Women of Excellence) featuring 17th and 18th Century French music by Mademoiselle Laurent, Mademoiselle Duval and Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (including the canata L’Ile de Delos with soprano Ruby Hughes) and the world premiere of a BBC commission by Sarah Cattley.
  • Radio 3 in Concert features the BBC Singers led by Sofi Jeannin performing world premieres of Lucy Walker’s BBC Commission There will be stars and Helen Neeves’ Speak of the north alongside music by Soh, León, Forté and Panufnik, introduced by Sarah Walker and recorded at London’s St Giles Cripplegate.
  • Free Thinking marks the occasion with an episode titled Making your voice heard.
  • On Saturday 4 March, Kate Molleson presents a special live edition of Music Matters, including studio guests and a focus on inspirational women in music, while on Sunday 5 March Jazz Record Requests broadcasts female composers and performers only, and Words and Music looks at women and music in poetry, prose and history of music. The whole week, Composer of the Week (Monday 6 to Friday 10 March) focuses on the life and career of Johannah Müller-Hermann.

Celebrating Nina Simone (Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 February)

J to Z, Freeness, and Jazz Record Requests mark what would have been the 90th birthday of musical genius Nina Simone (born on 21/02/1933) with a weekend dedicated to the singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist. In J to Z, Kevin Le Gendre explores the music and legacy of Nina Simone featuring classic recordings and lesser known cuts, as well as words from Nina and some of the musicians who knew her best, while Jazz Record Requests broadcasts an excerpt of Alyn Shipton’s interview with Nina Simone – which would prove to be her last radio one in the UK.

Compline (Mondays, 9.30-10.00pm during the season of Lent: 27 February to 3 April)

The reflective service of night prayer, with words and music for the end of the day, returns for the six weeks of the season of Lent. Recorded in churches across the UK, the choral music will again span the centuries and be sung by four specialist groups: The Gesualdo Six, HeartEdge Manchester Choral Scholars, St Martin’s Voices, and the Ebor Singers.

The Music and Meditation Podcast – Series 2 (from Wednesday 8 March)

Mercury-nominated singer and songwriter NAO returns to present the second series of the ultimate therapeutic podcast series, combining specially-composed music and guided meditation to help listeners deal with the stresses and strains of every-day life.

Ultimate Calm (from Monday 10 April)

Ólafur Arnalds returns with a second series of twelve unique musical journeys into calm, each one inspired by a different theme, from Spring and sunsets to nostalgia and wanderlust. Alongside Ólafur’s curated song selections, each episode will also feature a special guest sharing a piece of music that brings them total peace, including Alfa Mist and Alice Sara Ott.

Three-Part Series

  • Richard Egarr on the machine that goes ping! (Sunday 5 to Sunday 19 February): conductor Richard Egarr traces the development of the harpsichord from instrument plucked by the hand, to the psaltery and the virginal, charting its unstoppable rise in popularity.

  • The Silent Musician ( Sunday 5 to Sunday 19 March): conductor Ben Gernon opens our ears to the possibilities in performance that different conductors create. He unlocks the traditions and sound worlds of our best orchestras (and their concert halls), and explores what happens to the music making when there is no conductor.

  • Viola: The Unsung Hero (Sunday 9 to Sunday 23 April): viola player Ruth Gibson explores her instrument’s unique voice across three programmes full of intriguing musical choices, showcasing repertoire written for viola by a wide range of composers, from Georg Philipp Telemann to Dobrinka Tabakova.

Wild Isles

Slow Radio (Sunday 26 March) takes listeners across the UK to savour and celebrate the wildlife on our own doorstep: a safari in our own back yard, this edition ties in with the BBC One five-part series Wild Isles, presented by Sir David Attenborough.

The special Slow Radio edition – featuring an introduction by Sir David – presents the sounds of nature of the British Isles from the accompanying BBC TV programme. Listeners will be able to hear beavers, a toad breeding pond, reed beds, gannets, puffins, seals fighting and a coastal winter storm in glorious close-up.

To coincide with the TV broadcast of the series (early Spring), Sounds of the Earth – Radio 3’s weekly 15’ collage of nature sounds and music on Sunday Breakfast, with a blend of nature sounds interspersed with music tracks, uninterrupted by presentation – features specially recorded nature sounds from the Wild Isles series, blended with complementary tracks of music associated with the location where the sounds were recorded or which reflect the wildlife involved.

There are also Wild Isles – related episodes of Words and Music (Sunday 12 and 26 March), and Free Thinking ( Wednesday 22 March).

Drama on 3

  • The Seagull (Sunday 19 February): Chekhov’s classic stage play about art and love in a new adaptation, resulting from the collaboration between actor/writer Katherine Tozer and composer John Chambers, starring Emma Fielding (Irene), Mark Quartley (Stan), Erin Doherty (Nina) and Joel MacCormack (Boris) amongst others.

  • Kafka’s Dick (Sunday 2 April): first performed in 1986 at London’s Royal Court, Alan Bennett’s Kafka’s Dick is presented in a new production. The witty and irreverent play has a simple central premise: Franz Kafka and his friend Max Brod, returned from the dead, find themselves in the suburban home of Sydney, a Kafka fanatic, and his less literary minded wife, Linda. Brod spends the entire play trying to hide the fact that he did not burn Kafka’s papers, as promised, but had them all published, thus making his friend one of the world’s best-known writers.

  • Bess Loves Porgy (co-commission with BBC Radio 4 – Saturday 11 March on BBC Radio 4 & Sunday 9 April on BBC Radio 3): a radical update of DuBose Heyward’s iconic 1925 novel Porgy to modern Bermondsey, London, directed by Michael Buffong from a script by Roy Williams OBE, featuring specially composed music by Mercury Prize-nominated music producer Swindle – performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and sung by a cast including Reece Pantry as Porgy and Olivier-nominated Gabrielle Brooks as Bess.

  • Henry IV – Part 2 (Sunday 23 April): following his success in April 2020 as Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1 (broadcast again on Radio 3 on Sunday 16 April), Toby Jones returns to the role for Henry IV Part 2.

The Essay

Reading the First Folio (Monday 17 – Friday 21 April): four hundred years since the publication of William Shakespeare’s First Folio, five writers, actors or directors each take a passage from a play from the momentous book to tell listeners what they think it means, and what it means to them. Each writer has been asked to select a single-voiced passage – soliloquy, monologue, speech, or song.

The series will feature a range of voices from across artistic disciplines who all know Shakespeare well, including the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Michelle Terry and the playwright and director Sir David Hare.

New Generation Thinkers: two series of Essays from early career academics on the New Generation Thinkers scheme – run by BBC Radio 3 in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council – look at a wide range of topics: from reflections on novels that are relevant for our times, such as The Paradise Crater by Philip Wylie, Iola Leroy by Frances EW Harper, and Tales from the Garbage Hills by Latife Tekin (The Essay: Stories to keep space for in the bookshelf , Monday 6 – Friday 10 February), to discussions on miscarriage and mourning rituals, the legacy of Victorian ideas about education, and Tudor music and the composer and organist Thomas Weelkes (The Essay: New Generation Thinkers 2022 intake, Monday 3 – Friday 14 April).

Sunday Feature/ Between the Ears

  • Tutu – A Portrait of Nigeria (Sunday 12 February): in 2018, ‘Tutu’, a mysterious painting of a Nigerian princess by Ben Enwonwu, an art work which was considered lost, smashed the record price for a piece of African art, going under the hammer at Bonhams in Mayfair for £1.2 million. Novelist Chibundu Onuzo pieces together the fascinating story behind ‘Africa’s Mona Lisa’ and explores the life of its creator, considered the most important African artist of the 20th century, but far less well known outside Africa.

  • Carol and Muriel (Sunday 26 February): a documentary charting film-maker Carol Morley’s journey as she sets out to right a historical wrong. Muriel Box is the most prolific female director in this country. She made 13 movies in only 15 years and many of them were box office hits. The programme follows Carol as she tracks down Muriel’s relatives, and campaigns to get her films shown in this country.

  • The Government Song Woman (Sunday 5 March): folk singer Rhiannon Giddens celebrates the fascinating life and recordings of the folk song collector Sidney Robertson Cowell – an unjustly marginalised figure during her lifetime. Travelling thousands of miles all over the US in the depression era, Cowell was willing to track down songs in unlikely places: she spent a night riding in a hearse in Wisconsin just to question the driver and hear his songs, walked up mountains to record lumberjacks and traditional Appalachian singers and polled three miles downriver after dark on a makeshift raft to find a famed fiddler in his mine in California.

  • Rudolph Fisher in Harlem (Sunday 19 March): Rudolph Fisher was one of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance – a brilliant, witty writer, a doctor who did pioneering work with X-rays, and author of the first African American detective novel. But today, outside the academy, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he is barely known. In this Sunday Feature Lindsay Johns travels to Harlemto understand more about Fisher, and to explain what this true Renaissance Man can still teach us about race, class, Harlem, black detective fiction, and of course about how to write a cracking good tale.

  • Please Mr Lacey Let Me Work your Lovely Machine (Sunday 9 April): Roger Law, the satirist and artist best known for Spitting Image, celebrates artist, performer, and all-round eccentric Bruce Lacey.

Other Highlights

Composer of the Week

Composers featured this Spring include:

Inside Music

Performers hosting the Saturday programme this Spring, sharing their selections of music with listeners and their impact of them, include:

Private Passions 

Michael Berkeley’s guests this Spring include: Actress Joanna Scanlan (Sunday 29 January), Novelist Susie Boyt (Sunday 19 February), Dancer, director and choreographer Wayne Sleep OBE (Sunday 26 February), Actor Robert Powell (Sunday 26 March).


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