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Desert Island Discs (Radio 4)

Conspiratorial revelations keep Antonia Quirke hooked and thrilled.

Conspiratorial revelations keep Antonia Quirke hooked and thrilled.

An episode of Desert Island Discs with the voice coach Patsy Rodenburg had a sensational feeling for melodrama in conversation. Rodenburg - born in London 1953, an actor turned vocal expert - has a way of speaking (many full stops) that suggests she has long arrived at an understanding of the artificiality of certain notions.

Right after Beethoven's Symphony No 7 she came down viciously on chit-chatters. "I'm not a gossip. I'm working with very famous people and they say 'tell me the gossip'. And I say ‘I don't know any gossip. Why would I tell you any gossip?" She was, in short, as indestructible as a good folk rhyme. That she then proceeded to reveal more than most people might dare came as a thrill (if you take as the nadir in the other direction Richard Griffiths, who was paranoidly reluctant to confirm that he even had children).

Rodenburg admitted to having once been married to an alcoholic ("its boring. And then it's savage") whom she eventually left, but putting her in such low spirits she found it hard to feel cheer for more than a decade. "I really want to talk to you about love," said Kirsty, with an unmistakable conspiratorial tremble (one knew at this point that Rodenburg and Young's pre-show lunch had been particularly promising). "Tell me about the love of your life!" To which Rodenburg replied immediately, gravely, confidently; "Antonia Franceschi", as though answering "Abraham Lincoln" in a school quiz.

“I was at a party in New York and she was there with her husband and we talked for maybe three hours and the next thing I know is that she arrives in London. To find me." Kirsty leans in with all the happiness of a more-than competent radio host who knows she is not just averagely productive and in spate but actively tapping a loaded branch. "Literally that was the next thing that happened?" Rodenburg clarified without compunction. "A letter. And then she arrived. In London." Kirsty breathes "Good God" and we go - reluctantly - to the 3rd movement of Sibelius's Violin Concerto, a dramatic number that flings up images of the sun's flame rings and horses pounding across a field. The moment was unforgettable: like preserving rapture in a snow-scene in a glass ball.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.