Star on board: Andrew Marr

Author: Vicky Mayer

Published on:

Renowned broadcaster Andrew Marr on his love of classical music, David Hockney and why he can’t wait to sail with Viking on the Danube

You launched your Sunday programme on Classic FM in January. How’s it going?
Well I think the show is going quite well. I would say that, wouldn't I, but I get lots and lots of nice comments, as I'm ambling around my local park for a walk or coming into the pub.

I think a lot of people are listening to it, and I think they're getting a slightly different Andrew Marr than they’re used to, perhaps.

For new listeners, what can they expect to hear?
New listeners will find that it's a mixture of really, really familiar, engaging, irresistible music. The stuff that the minute you hear it, you think, ah yes – plus stuff that you won't have heard so often.

I've been listening to classical music all my life and so I'll be delving back into music I've loved throughout my life, from Bach and Mozart and Haydn – all the greats – and a few less well-known composers as well. So a real mixture.

If you could have any guest on the show, dead or alive, who would that be?
I think it would have to be Brahms. Brahms was a famously very difficult and prickly man. But I find his music, as I grow older, particularly moving because it’s often about the bravery of ordinary life, the importance of courage and just keeping going when things are tough.

And I would love to talk to him about that and love to hear his verbal reflections on his life, because his musical reflections mean so much to me.

Learn the story behind the famed Bayeux Tapestry by travelling all floors. Credit: Viking

How did your passion for classical music start?
I was very lucky in that I had enlightened, kind and musical parents, and they would buy me records from a very early stage, even music that I wouldn't know that I would like.

I can remember very early on being bought Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches, and marching around my bedroom to them. And they bought me The Rite of Spring very early on as well. Very bouncy, very engaging music. My father loved choral music. He was president of the Dundee Choral Union. And he’d take me to hear oratorios – the Messiah and many more, from quite an early age.

And then at school, in the boring, dull long afternoons, I would buy my own music and listen to stuff that I just discovered in music shops. And I can remember very, very early on being loaned Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, and sitting watching the snow fall in eastern Scotland and thinking this is just the most sublime sound I've ever heard.

Are there any particular pieces that you enjoy listening to?
At the moment, I am listening to Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues – the piano pieces he wrote for a then young Russian pianist who was competing in the International Bach competition in Leipzig in East Germany.

And there are an enormous range of moods, these Shostakovich pieces. They can be quite slow, quite disconcerting, almost jarring. And then very exciting. And as ever, Shostakovich is producing the soundtrack for ordinary daily life. I find them enormously moving.

How do you think travel and music go hand-in-hand?
Well, I always bring music with me when I travel, in the sense that, like a lot of people, I've got music on my phone and I've got a pair of headphones. And I will download Classic FM, but I will also download lots of music from the streaming services.

And I find, if I'm out walking in an unfamiliar landscape, I will try and find music that goes with it. I play these little games. David Hockney had this great drive he did in California where he put his guests in the back of his big open-top car and drove through the mountains north of Los Angeles, playing Wagner to them. And he would have particular bits of music he’d play on particular bits of roads. And that's the kind of game we can all play.

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If you were taking a cruise with Viking, where would you go?
It’s the Danube. I'd love to go down the Danube. Eastern Europe, central eastern Europe, is a part of the continent I don't know well enough.

I've been once to Budapest, but I think the cities of the Danube, and the art and the beauty and the architecture there... that's something I would really love to explore. Not to mention the cuisine, of course.

Which destination is next on your holiday wish list?
I'm going down to the south of France near Béziers, to a very, very small town. I love the south of France and this is a little stretch of coast that I haven't really explored before. I've not been there before, but I've been following along the coast because I'm fascinated by painting.

The southern French coast is where Cézanne painted. It's where Matisse painted in a different area. Picasso was there a lot. And so I follow the footsteps of my great heroes in painting.

Andrew presents Sundays 10am to 1pm on Classic FM, available on Global Player, 100-102FM, DAB digital radio and TV, and Andrew’s programme is sponsored by Viking.

Experience the Danube onboard Riviera Radiance. Credit: Shutterstock
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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.