The Soundtrack to Escapism

Clemency Burton-Hill is the Creative Director of Music and Arts at NYC Radio. Believing that music is the best medium for cultural exchange, she has created sensational classical playlists for Belmond’s inspiring destinations. Listen in, and discover more about her inspiration.


I was inspired by Belmond to take you on a dreamy musical adventure, spanning almost four hundred years and encompassing some of the most beautiful places in Europe. Claude Debussy’s ‘Reflections on the Water’ provides a serene soundtrack for a Burgundy river cruise aboard Afloat in France. While Erik Satie summons the avant garde spirit of Paris, where you can board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

In St Petersburg, you can dine at the Grand Hotel Europe on Nevsky Prospekt. Here you’ll lose yourself in a lushly romantic piano concerto by that city’s musical hero, Dmitri Shostakovich.

Speaking of cities and their iconic composers: what would Venice be without Vivaldi, as Venetian a fixture as a fresh white peach Bellini at the Cipriani? Heading South, here’s Tchaikovsky’s enduring sonic postcard sent with love from Villa San Michele in Florence. While over at Reid’s Palace in Madeira, we are transported back through the centuries with a fleeting vignette of Portuguese Renaissance polyphony courtesy of Manuel Cardoso.

Thomas Adès’ bittersweet O Albion captures the idyllic English countryside of Oxfordshire, home to storied Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, as well as the composer Max Richter. Richter’s atmospheric Dream 3 might serve as the perfect musical nightcap after a cocktail at the The Cadogan in London…


North America is a land abundant in musical culture, as diverse in its soundscapes as it is in its physical landscapes. I was inspired to mix this playlist while overlooking the glittering Pacific while staying at El Encanto in Santa Barbara, on the Californian Riviera.

I have included music by some of the most iconic American composers, including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. But I also wanted to introduce you, perhaps, to some lesser-known but no less dazzling talents. These include Amy Beach (1867-1944), who is often dubbed the ‘first’ American female composer. It also includes her contemporary Florence Price (1887-1953), who was certainly the first African-American female composer to have her music taken seriously.

Then there are two towering contemporary female composers. Caroline Shaw, who became the youngest composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. And Meredith Monk, a tirelessly inventive artist working across many platforms.

Into that mix I have added sublime modern vocal music by David Lang, Stephen Paulus and Eric Whitacre. I hope you will find this playlist the perfect sonic accompaniment to your great American adventure.

The Classical Muse

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