Alan Titchmarsh shares his top 10 favourite pieces of classical music

26 April 2024, 18:55

Alan Titchmarsh shares his top 10 favourite pieces of classical music
Alan Titchmarsh shares his top 10 favourite pieces of classical music. Picture: Classic FM
Classic FM

By Classic FM

Alan Titchmarsh, host of Saturday afternoons on Classic FM where he features his weekly gardening tip, shares his 10 favourite pieces to stir the senses and calm the mind.

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A much-loved TV figure and gardening expert alongside his time behind the mic, in his spare time Alan Titchmarsh always turns to music that evokes images of nature and the countryside.

Ahead of his Saturday afternoon programme on Classic FM, 4-7pm, we asked him about his all-time favourite pieces of classical music. Here’s what he told us...

  1. Geoffrey Burgon – Theme from Brideshead Revisited

    This BAFTA-nominated score from John Mortimer’s 1981 TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel is a breathtakingly elegant piece. Wistful oboe and trumpet match with regal horns, conjuring up the pomp of Brideshead alongside the demise of Lord Marchmain and his family.

    “A reminder of that dazzling original TV series, rich in mood and atmosphere,” Alan says. “I can still feel the agonies of unrequited love!”

    Brideshead Revisited Theme

  2. Bach – Brandenburg Concertos

    “4, 5 and 6 are especially exhilarating and light hearted,” Alan says. “I love their freshness and Bach’s lightness of touch.”

    Over 300 years old and still regarded as one of the greatest accomplishments in musical history, the Brandenburg Concertos took the ‘concerto grosso’ form to new heights. Bach introduced new and exciting instrument combinations, including violas and violas da gamba in No.6, a harpsichord in No.5, and virtuosic violin lines in No.4.

    Bach - Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 in D major BWV 1050 - Sato | Netherlands Bach Society

  3. Delius – ‘By the River’ from Florida Suite

    Delius was inspired by his time managing an orange grove in Florida, where he fell in love with the sunshine state’s bright landscapes and balmy weather. The second movement, ‘By the River’, perfectly illustrates the calm, gentle flow of the water.

    “Wonderfully evocative of a summer’s afternoon in a boat!” Alan says. “You really do feel you are there on the river.”

    Delius: By the River - The Florida Suite.

  4. Mozart – ‘Queen of the Night’ aria from The Magic Flute

    “Tremendous coloratura that lifts my spirits whenever I hear it,” Alan says. “I even try to sing along!”

    The exhilarating aria ‘Der Hölle Rache’, sung with fire and intensity by the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, is the ultimate showcase for a soprano diva.

    Soprano Rainelle Krause flawlessly sings Mozart’s ‘Queen of the Night’ aria UPSIDE DOWN

  5. Franz Lehár – The Merry Widow

    Based on an 1861 Parisian play, Franz Lehár’s music to the 1905 operetta The Merry Widow evokes the glitz and glamour of the Parisian bourgeoisie, from sweeping romance to dizzying dances.

    Alan says, it’s “a sumptuous score by one of the finest masters of melody the world has ever known.”

    Vilja aria from Lehár's The Merry Widow ǀ English National Opera

  6. Benjamin Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

    Britten’s 1945 stately orchestral adventure was commissioned for a film titled Instruments of the Orchestra, aimed at introducing young people to classical music.

    Based initially on a theme from Purcell’s Abdelazer Suite, Britten journeys through the modern symphony orchestra allowing each instrument its own glorious spotlight, before showcasing how they all fit together.

    “I love the way it dissects the orchestra and then puts it all back together again,” Alan says. “A really neat trick.”

    Benjamin Britten - The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra | WDR Sinfonieorchester

  7. Saint-Saëns – ‘Organ’ Symphony No.3

    Not for the faint-hearted, Saint-Saëns’ third symphony is one of the greatest symphonic showcases for the most majestic of instruments. Its finale begins with a powerful blast of air through the pipes, a glittering piano duet, and a soulful hymn-like melody, immortalised in the 1977 song “If I Had Words” and beloved 1995 film Babe.

    Here’s what Alan had to say: “All bells and whistles – hugely empowering. If ever you need a blast of music to clear the air this does the trick.”

    Saint-Saëns: 3. Sinfonie (»Orgelsinfonie«) ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Iveta Apkalna ∙ Riccardo Minasi

  8. Nigel Hess – Christmas Overture

    It’s never too soon for a little festive spirit, as far as Alan is concerned.

    Nigel Hess’ Christmas Overture packs some of the best-loved seasonal melodies into one merry medley and, as Alan says, makes: “the perfect start to Christmas and one of the finest arrangements from a brilliant composer.”

    A Christmas Overture - Nigel Hess, John Rutter, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

  9. Patrick Doyle – Sense and Sensibility

    One of Scottish composer Patrick Doyle’s greatest works, the uplifting score to the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, is one of Alan’s favourites.

    “Particularly ‘Willoughby’,” Alan says. “A wonderfully jaunty track that lifts the spirits. Doyle is at his best as a movie soundtrack writer in this Jane Austen adaptation.”


  10. Debbie Wiseman – Water Lily (The Glorious Garden)

    In 2018, inspired by Alan’s own poems, composer Debbie Wiseman transformed the gardener’s words into a blossoming collection of symphonic pieces.

    “I had such fun writing poems for this album with music by Debbie Wiseman and this is one of my favourite tracks,” Alan says. “‘Out of reach among reflections the languid lily lies; back against the water, gazing at the skies...’”

    Water Lily Instrumental | The Glorious Garden | Classic FM

Join Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM, Saturdays 4–7pm.