Joanna Lumley & The Maestro

Joanna Lumley & The Maestro

By Bauer Media

Joanna Lumley and her husband Stephen Barlow invite you into their home for a fascinating, funny journey into their shared love of music. You probably know Joanna Lumley, but you may not be aware that her husband Stephen Barlow is a famed conductor, composer and musician - and the pair of them are passionate about classical music. On this, their new podcast, the pair welcome you into their home for a personal, fascinating and funny journey through a musical world. Joanna is the enthusiastic amateur - asking the questions she’s always wanted to ask - and Stephen is The Maestro, providing the answers. Who was better: Mozart or Beethoven? Why do certain pieces of music make us feel a certain way? What do conductors actually do? They also discuss the great composers and symphonies, and the often-remarkable stories behind them, all delivered in Joanna and Stephen’s unique, engaging and affectionate way. Maybe you think classical music isn’t for you? Or you know a little and want to know more? Or perhaps it's been a lifetime love? Regardless, you definitely need to meet Joanna & The Maestro.


The Piano Tuner

This week Joanna and Stephen are joined by a very special guest, Stephen's personal piano tuner, David Widdicombe. From concert grands, upright 'domestics' and honkytonks, David has tuned them all. Having worked with the world's most prestigious piano maker, Steinway, for 3 decades David tells us about his life working alongside the world's most gifted players, how fractions of millimetres make all the difference and how to find the perfect 'temperament' from your own “Joanna”.
08/02/2419m 0s

The Bohemians: Martinů & Janáček

This week we’re diving into two bohemian heroes of classical music, Bohuslav Martinů and Leoš Janáček. Stephen remembers encountering the music of Martinů at Cambridge, and being confronted by the "pure simple joy" of it. From the lyricism of Martinů, we work back towards Janáček – another gifted Czech composer – and get to grips with the fairy-tale essence of The Cunning Little Vixen, Sinfonietta and the exultant Glagolitic Mass. Strap in. The Bohemians have arrived.
06/02/2434m 46s

Women Composers, the "Ol' 55" and the wonders of 'The Trout'

Which note could the Maestro not live without? Where are all the female composers? And is there a better quintet going than Franz Schubert's Trout? In this mini episode Joanna puts your questions to the Maestro.
01/02/2418m 19s

A Few Blobs On A Stave

This episode is all about the written language of music, the 'hieroglyphs' or 'blobs on the stave'. Stephen and Joanna discuss the connection between reading music and words, elaborating on symbols, sounds, expression, speed and time signature. Stephen tests the boundaries of Joanna's musical literacy with a test and Wagner offers a 'moderate' interpretation of tempi.
30/01/2426m 29s

Earworms, Engravers and Glastonbury

Which earworm keeps the Stephen from his bedtime reading? What's stopping Joanna from going to Glastonbury? Is the Maestro being clear enough for his engraver? In this mini episode Joanna and Stephen dive into the email inbox once again...
25/01/2415m 1s

Let's Get Stringy

In today's episode, Stephen and Joanna pour over some of the most passionate music ever performed and conceived - the violin concerto. They explore the mechanics of violin playing, discuss their favourite virtuoso fiddlers and also explore major works by Elgar, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius.
23/01/2432m 49s

Mongolian Throat Singing & The Love For Three Oranges

In this mini episode, Joanna and Stephen explore the most pressing questions. What is the Maestro's preferred sobriquet? Music that sounds like it's from a different dimension, and how one should conduct music for the love of three oranges?
18/01/2410m 13s

The French Impressionists

Is it a faun? Is it moonlight? Yes, it's Claude Debussy! Over the next 30 minutes, Joanna and Stephen discuss the musical development of French impressionism. We see how three composers, Debussy, Ravel and Boulez, summoned images through sound and set the imagination free.
16/01/2439m 15s

Colours, Moods, Shoes and trouble with Transposition

In this mini episode, Joanna and Stephen field more vital questions from listeners, such as, why does transposition jangle the Maestro's mind? Which musical keys suit certain moods? And most importantly, what not to wear when meeting the President?
11/01/2411m 47s

The Glorious British Brass Band

Is there anything quite so majestic as the British brass band? Joanna and Stephen describe their first encounters with these ensembles, how they evolved and which pieces reach out to the soul. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, brass bands first appeared as a means of fostering community ties among workers. These bands have since become popular in various contexts, from marches and competitions to concerts and even movie scores.
09/01/2427m 24s

Bonus Stephen Fry: The Audience, Artificial Intelligence and a very un-Hollywood story

In this bonus mini episode with the actor, writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry, we discuss why audiences matter, the transcendent force of pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi and what artificial intelligence really means for classical music.
04/01/2411m 31s

Anna Lapwood: Bach, Lutosławski & The Ministry of Sound

The celebrated organist, choir director and presenter Anna Lapwood joins Stephen and Joanna to discuss a case of mistaken identity at a book launch several years ago. We also get in to the wonderful organ music of Lutosławski, Bach, Duruflé and rock out to Faithless when the Ministry of Sound took over the Royal Albert Hall in 2023.
02/01/2436m 43s

Concerts, Carols & All Things Christmas

When can one acceptably pour a bucks fizz during the Christmas holidays? Did the Holy Trinity (Beethoven, Mozart and Bach) care much for the festive period? Which carol is best for crooning? And which book does Joanna read every year at Christmas? Joanna and Stephen have opened the email inbox and answer your yuletide queries and concerns.
28/12/2315m 50s

Merry Christmas From Joanna & the Maestro

Christmas has landed and The Music Room is in full reverberation. From carols to ditties, oratorios and Wham! the Maestro and Joanna leave no stone unturned in this Christmas special.
26/12/2345m 18s

Bonus Christmas Ken Bruce

Did you think we'd forgotten to get you a Christmas present? Far from it! Joanna was Ken Bruce's special guest on Greatest Hits Radio, so we thought we'd slip a little extra episode under your tree in the shape of their brilliant interview. If you want to hear the whole show - and listen to the music Joanna chose - go to
23/12/2310m 53s

Child Prodigies, The Jocundity of Rossini and The Big Snare Drum

Joanna and Stephen fire up the email inbox in the week's mini episode, diving into listeners' questions on everything from how conductors convey depth and complex emotions; how to coax a child prodigy and how not behave in the opera halls of 1870.
21/12/2310m 34s

Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan on the making of 'Maestro'

This week, Joanna and the Stephen are joined by Hollywood royalty. On the eve Netflix's worldwide release of 'Maestro' - a new biopic about the world renown conductor Leonard Bernstein - Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan drop into the Music Room to discuss the making of a Hollywood love story like no other. Furthermore, Bradley tells us how he meticulously practiced the art of conducting for the role; we dive into early musical influences ranging from Vivaldi to Mozart, and hear how the gift of a conductor's baton set the whole thing off.Maestro is on Netflix from 20th December
19/12/2329m 59s

Great Conductors, Musical Signatures and Whizz Kids

How do great conductors like Furtwängler and Haitink command an orchestra? Do some conductors have a signature sound? And how did meeting the driver of The Flying Scotsman in Woolworths almost derail Stephen's musical destiny? In this mini episode, Joanna and Stephen reveal all.
14/12/2314m 27s

Stephen Fry and the Virtuosity of Classical Music

Today, Joanna and the Maestro are joined by the actor, writer and national treasure, Stephen Fry. The trio discuss Stephen’s deep love for classical music, which began in childhood with the soft sounds of Schubert, Brahms and Chopin emanating from his father's practice room. They discuss the deeply emotional music of composers like Bach through to Mahler and Schoenberg. Fry explains how great concertos like Tchaikovsky’s Violin and Beethoven's 5th should be interpreted as an allegory for society, and why generative AI only heightens the virtuosity of the live orchestra.
12/12/2333m 47s

Unsung Heroes: Lili Boulanger, Prodigy meets Tragedy

This week's mini episode continues our theme of 'unsung heroes'. And today we're diving into the works of another prodigious French composer, Lili Boulanger, celebrating the flourish, colour and romance of her music.
07/12/2316m 36s

Aled Jones: Teenage Choirs, Richard Branston and the Music of Everything

One of the UK's most loved vocalists and broadcasters, Aled Jones, sits down with Joanna and Stephen to discuss the moment he unearthed a trove of unreleased music from his childhood. In this candid conversation, Aled reveals what it was like meeting Richard Branston at Virgin Records as a teenager, recording 16 albums in 4 years before his voice broke and becoming the 'radio son' of the veteran broadcaster Terry Wogan.
05/12/2328m 10s

Unsung Heroes: Charles Koechlin and Magic of The Jungle Book

This week's mini episode comes to you as a pair. Stephen and Joanna discuss their favourite 'unsung heroes' - this time focusing on the strange and absorbing late works of Charles Koechlin. 'Les Bandar-Log' is part of a cycle of symphonic poems based on Kipling's Jungle Book, completed in 1940. The score touches on a range of early 20th-century styles, from Debussyan impressionism to 12-note technique, but somehow welds all the tongue-in-cheek references into a dazzling whole.
30/11/2314m 39s

Rule Breakers: Gesualdo, Beethoven and Stravinsky

Which three composers tore up the rule book and changed music forever? Joanna and Stephen begin this episode with the cold-blooded murderer, Carlo Gesualdo - a dreadful man who composed sacred music. Known for plundering the depths of emotion in his madrigals, Gesualdo's 'word-paintings' broke the 16th century Venosan equivalent of the internet. We also discover how Beethoven reimagined the symphony and explore Stravinsky's daring new experiments in rhythm and orchestration.
28/11/2333m 27s

Bonus Brydon: Mashups, Richard Burton and 'The Swinging Doors'

We enjoyed speaking to Rob Brydon so much that we kept the tape rolling after the interview finished – much to our joy. In this extra mini-episode, Rob runs through the 'schlocky' teen movie he’ll never forget and how to start a conversation in the style of Richard Burton.
23/11/2310m 14s

Rob Brydon: Springsteen, Miles Davis and paying homage to The King

We're back! Starting a new series with comedian, actor and Welsh icon Rob Brydon who discusses the poetry of Bruce Springsteen, his life on stage and a burgeoning love for jazz. Sharing stories about early life in Porthcawl, Swansea and the wonderfully flamboyant 'Mr Crute', Rob tells us how his life took a turn towards musicals later in his career and how he's never looked back (even if his fingers are a little sore).
21/11/2331m 16s

Welcome back to Joanna Lumley & The Maestro Season 3

Joanna & The Maestro are overjoyed to be back, and this time they're bringing some friends with them. In a brand new series Joanna Lumley and composer and conductor Stephen Barlow once again invite listeners into their home for more fascinating, funny journeys into their lifelong shared passion; classical music. Joining them for the ride are comedians, musicians, broadcasters and national treasures including Stephen Fry, Aled Jones and Anna Lapwood, who join our hosts on their mission to explore centuries of breath-taking music and celebrate the most talented composers to have ever lived. Subscribe to hear our season launch next week with special guest Rob Brydon, talking everything from Miles Davis, Elvis and The Boss.

Getting THE FEAR & The First Ever Opera

This mini episode sees Stephen having flashbacks to the most challenging piece of music he’s ever had to play, Joanna asks about composers who've been lost in time, and we investigate the first ever real opera... Got questions for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
13/07/2315m 51s

Interval Please

It’s hard work talking about classical music all day. Perhaps we need an interval - no - not that kind of interval! In this episode Stephen explains how intervals are the building blocks of music, and Joanna reveals what stage performers really get up to in the interval break.
11/07/2328m 48s

Dogs Riding Horses & Music For Your Funeral

Do all classical pieces have to be long? Apparently not. Are there some brief classical hits? Yes indeed. Stephen and Joanna also discuss whether composers ever write music for their own funerals. Plus, a listener is distracted by a dog riding a horse. Seriously. Got questions for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
06/07/2310m 52s

The King of Instruments

They were the most complex machines ever constructed (before the industrial revolution). The best are said to have “bite” and the biggest has over 33,000 pipes. We’re talking about the organ - aka “The King of Instruments”. Both Mozart and Bach adored these kaleidoscopes of sound, so when and why did they fall out of fashion? And what debt do we owe these monumental instruments today?
04/07/2332m 20s

The Coronation (Part 2)

Joanna and Stephen return to your questions about the King’s coronation. They discuss the old and new compositions and commissions from the day and the breathtaking conductorship of Andrew Nethsingha and Sir Antonio Pappano.
29/06/2311m 38s


In this episode we dive into the life and works of Richard Strauss, one of Stephen’s favourite composers. Joanna and Stephen take a tour through his ‘ultra-modern’ operas Elektra and Salome and also chat about his enduring legacy of work along the way. If there are other composers you’d like Joanna and Stephen to do a deep dive on let them know at
27/06/2338m 47s

The Coronation (Part 1)

Joanna and Stephen spill the beans on the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. As favoured guests, they tell us about their favourite moments from inside Westminster Abbey on the special day.
22/06/2314m 11s

Welcome To The English School

Have you ever wondered how musical styles become synonymous with certain countries, regions and places? What is it about the Italian school that defines it from, say, the Nordic or the French school? In this episode Joanna and Stephen take a whistle stop tour through 2 centuries of ‘The English School’, exploring everyone from Elgar to Goehr, Sullivan and Stanford.
20/06/2327m 2s

Modern Classical Music - Just For ‘Smarty Pants’?

This week Joanna and Stephen dive into the inbox to tackle your questions, like: What music makes them cry? Is modern classical too ‘clever’? And what does the maestro hear when he listens to music? Got a question for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
15/06/239m 6s

Mark Kermode: Scores, Cinema and The Sound of The Exorcist…

Mark Kermode, Britain’s most loved film critic, is Joanna and Stephen's special guest, discussing his favourite soundtracks, composers and we go on a deep dive into the music of ‘The Exorcist’ - Mark's ‘gateway drug’ for discovering countless classical delights.
13/06/2336m 13s

Opera - Just For The Posh?

Another round of your brilliant questions. Joanna and Stephen tackle a big one, is opera just for the upper class? (Spoiler alert: It isn’t). Plus, if you could be any composer in the world, who would you be? And what’s the greatest James Bond theme? Got a question for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
08/06/238m 50s

Sean Rafferty: Celidhs, Studio Emergencies and the Musical Sublime

Joanna and Stephen invite another guest into their home. Classical music aficionado Sean Rafferty discusses his lifelong love of music, and our trio discuss learning to play music, the culture of arts in Ireland and what happens when a bomb goes off while you’re broadcasting.
06/06/2329m 35s


This week our intrepid classical crusaders tackle questions like; if Joanna and Stephen were pieces of music, what would they be? Where should you start when it comes to collecting CDs or vinyl? And is Beethoven's 5th Symphony really the GOAT? Got questions for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
01/06/2310m 0s

The Art of the Possible: Musicals, Shows and Operas…

We need to talk about musicals. The most popular ones tour up and down the country and play to packed out theatres 8 times a week. No need for state-backing here! So why can’t opera do the same? In this episode, Joanna and Stephen discuss how musicals and opera differ from one another, and how directors push ‘the art of the possible’ to achieve such monumental feats in the world of musical theatre.
29/05/2329m 52s

We All Love a Disaster

What happens when it all goes wrong? What’s the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a conductor? Conducting with your flies down? And have Joanna or Stephen ever dozed off during a show? Got questions for Joanna and Stephen? Drop them a line
25/05/2311m 12s

Arnold Schoenberg: The Man who Changed Music

Captain, We Hit A Schoenberg! Did Arnold Schoenberg break Classical music? Widely considered the greatest composer of the 20th century, Schoenburg’s innovations in ‘atonality’ (a term he detested throughout his life) changed the trajectory of music forever. In this episode, Joanna and Stephen explore the ripples of Schoenberg’s (much preferred) ‘emancipated dissonances’, through modern British composers such as Tippet, Turnage, Weir and Maxwell Davies.
23/05/2327m 21s

Virgins, Nicknames & How To Train Your Maestro…

Its question time again! This week Joanna and Stephen discuss your questions on nicknames for operas and where to start with listening to them. Stephen also reveals how one becomes a Maestro…
18/05/2310m 53s

Turning the Tables: Joanna’s Life as a ‘Moving Target’

In this episode the Maestro turns the tables on Joanna and asks her questions about her life, her career as an actress and how she became a diarist for the Times. Joanna talks about why she wanted to become an actress, how being a model held her back and why she’ll keep wearing make up till the day she dies. We also hear why her favourite ever part was playing Hedda Gabler at the Dundee Repertory Theatre and why Stephen and Joanna never go on holiday.
16/05/2332m 31s

Stick Or No Stick, Deadly Composers & Interpreting The Score

What drove 16th century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, to commit homicide? To baton or not to baton? And how do composers really interpret a score?
11/05/2311m 55s

Stripping The Score

Have you ever wondered how a conductor deciphers the individual musical parts and melodies from a whole opera score? In this episode, Stephen and Joanna deconstruct Richard Strauss’ monumental opera, Salome - a score which contains the so-called “most sickening chord in all opera”.
09/05/2332m 3s

Sex, Death & Pythagoras?

What did Joanna and Stephen play at their wedding? Why does everyone die in opera? And what the heck does Pythagoras have to do with music?
04/05/2310m 1s


Love them or hate them, everyone has one. In this episode, we’re discussing National Anthems. In Japan they sing of generations reigning eight thousand years. The French sing of slaughtering enemies until their ‘blood should water our fields’ and in New Zealand they celebrate ‘the hairy man who summons the sun and makes it shine’. Joanna and Stephen reveal the stories behind these bombastic pieces of music.
02/05/2324m 14s

Your Questions: Patsy, Broken Batons & The Future Of Conductors

We’ve turned the tables! Welcome to a mini episode where you get to ask Joanna & The Maestro your absolutely fabulous musical questions.
27/04/2310m 23s

Ade Edmondson: Learning Lines, The A303 and Being Forced to Listen to Classical Music

Ade Edmondson joins Joanna and Stephen to kick off season two! The actor, comedian and musician discusses his own complicated relationship with classical music, his jack-of-all-trades mentality to learning instruments and why his Dad never approved of Led Zeppelin. We also hear about Ade’s own experience making music and reveal Jennifer Saunders’ top driving anthems.
25/04/2331m 14s

So, You Think You Can Sing?

Opera is to ordinary singing what Olympians are to dog walkers. It takes years of dedication, practice and coaching to develop a fully rounded and mature operatic voice. So, how well do you know your mezzo soprano from your contralto? In this episode, Stephen and Joanna shed light into the rarefied world of the opera voice, exploring what it takes to become one of the true ‘greats’.
04/04/2332m 55s

The British Greats (Part 2): From Hendrix to Handel

Having previously fallen down a wormhole in Part 1, Joanna and Stephen start with Jimi Hendrix’s illustrious Mayfair neighbour, George Friedrich Handel (albeit 200 years apart) exploring the legacy of this German-born genius; they also wonder what happened to Joanna’s little red Ferrari and finally get back to business with Britten and Butterworth.
28/03/2337m 23s


Some extraordinary songs transport us to another time or dimension. This week our classical duo explore compositions which move us to our very core by taking a tour through the evolution of the song itself. Diving into folk melodies, arias, Victorian parlour music and beyond.
21/03/2333m 56s

What’s Wrong With Opera?

Why does Opera make some people (maybe you?) run for the hills? In this episode Joanna and Stephen dig down into the big questions… Like, when did Opera become posh? How did it evolve from musical drama? And can it be reduced to 6 emotions: Admiration, Hatred, Love, Desire, Joy, Sadness and Sorrow - according to René Descart?
14/03/2334m 32s

The Voice: Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Doris Day

Who is the finest singer of all time? And what makes a legendary voice? Is it technique, style, phrasing or simply magic? This week Joanna and Stephen discuss their favourite singers, find out why do we fall in love with certain voices, and (the burning question) what does Joanna think of Stephen’s voice?
07/03/2336m 47s

The Good, The Bad And The Film Music…

From 'Jaws' to 'Genevieve', 'Gone with the Wind' and 'Bond', every brilliant movie has to have a great theme tune. But who were the composers who wrote these iconic pieces of music? In this episode, Joanna and Stephen dive into the greatest film scores ever written.
28/02/2335m 42s

The British Greats (Part 1)

The 18th century saw Great Britain referred to as “Das Land ohne Musik” - the land without music by continental Europeans. Quite the damning reviews. But why? And more importantly, is it true? Joanna and Stephen launch into the archives of great British composers like Tallis, Elgar, Byrd, Gibbons and Vaughan Williams in search of our national melodies and some home grown ‘kultur’.
21/02/2331m 44s

The Birth of the Symphony

In this episode Joanna Lumley and her husband Stephen Barlow tackle a biggie - the Symphony. We’ve probably all heard these types of composition - usually involving full orchestras and four distinct movements - but where did they originate from? Who wrote the best ones? What are the building blocks of a symphony? And what’s harder to conduct, a symphony or an opera?
14/02/2340m 32s

Puccini Unbound

Sex, death, betrayal: all the good stuff. Puccini has it all. If you’re a total beginner or an opera aficionado, this episode is about the amazing operas of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, the glorious melodies and how they capture his characters perfectly. This week Joanna and Stephen peel back the layers of Puccini’s most celebrated operas ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘La Bohème’, ‘Tosca’ and ‘Turandot’.
07/02/2330m 38s

What Does A Conductor Do?

Joanna Lumley has a few questions about her husband’s profession. As well as being a composer and pianist, Stephen Barlow is a conductor - but what does that actually mean? What is it that a conductor actually does? Do they set the speed of the music? How long have they been around for? Are they really needed at all? In this episode Stephen answers these questions and takes us behind the velvet curtain into the backstage life of the conductor.
31/01/2335m 26s

Mozart or Beethoven?

It’s the battle of the heavyweights! Stephen couldn’t live without Mozart, while Joanna thinks Beethoven is the most sublime composer who ever lived. In this episode we get to the bottom of an age-old debate, who’s better: Mozart or Beethoven? From ‘Figaro’ to ‘Fidelio’, Joanna and Stephen get to grips with the operas, masses, serenades and symphonies of these two classical behemoths.
24/01/2337m 21s

The Music Room

Why does music make us feel such emotion? Joanna Lumley and her husband Stephen Barlow invite you into their music room to discuss the big questions of life, music and marriage. In this first episode we take a tour through the music which shaped their childhoods in England and South-East Asia. For Stephen, this meant falling in love with Wagner’s ‘Das Rheingold’ and rocking out to Led Zep. For Joanna, it meant pastoral symphonies on the wind up gramophone in the jungles of Malaya.
17/01/2334m 53s


Joanna Lumley and her husband Stephen Barlow invite you into their home for a fascinating, funny journey into their shared love of music.
05/01/231m 41s
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