BBC launches 'classical idol'

Here is the blurb from the BBC website - 'The hunt for the UK's next classical music superstar is on and for one exceptional young musician the opportunity of a lifetime is within reach. The winner of Classical Star will win a top record deal and the chance to launch their dream career.

Acclaimed musician and Classical Star Musical Director Matthew Barley is searching for a top class performer who has the ability to broaden the appeal of classical music. The winner must have that extra special something to impress the prestigious judging panel of top conductor Charles Hazlewood, Double Bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, conductor Jason Lai and music industry mogul Steve Abbott.

Through nationwide auditions 18 candidates have been short listed but only the best nine will attend the Music Academy, where Matthew has devised a rigorous and demanding three-week residential programme.

In the first of the five part series, the 18 candidates battle for a place in the Academy over two intensive days in London. This is a nerve-wracking journey as the young players are asked to improvise, complete demanding interviews and perform to the best of their ability under the scrutiny of the judges. At the end the nine successful Academy candidates are revealed.'

The first programme is on BBC2 TV on Tuesday 16 Oct, 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm UK time. But let's remember that the argument that this type of programme "broadens the appeal of classical music " often doesn't hold up. It is also worth noting that judge Steve Abbot's credits include "producing the music programme of Princess Diana's funeral service, and personally introducing Sir Elton John into the proceedings". So don't expect too much John Cage in that "top record deal".

Thank goodness for CDs and internet radio.

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Chris Foley said…
As a pianist for two seasons on Bravo!Canada's Bathroom Divas (an opera reality show), I heartily disagree with you regarding the relevancy of classical music reality TV. One of the first things that viewers notice is just how darned difficult playing an instrument or singing is. A main part of the attraction for viewers of this type of show is following the stories of the participants and watching them in master classes with the pros. I would like to think that the end result of watching these shows might be to get people in the door of the classical music world and take up music lessons, buy recordings, and go to concerts.

My only two reservations about this format are that 1) the repertoire tends toward classical blancmange, and 2) I question networks' long-term commitment toward this type of show, even though they might demonstrate extraordinary ratings (Bathroom Divas was canceled unexpectedly after two successful seasons).
Pliable said…
Chris, I think your last paragraph says it all.

It is not only the networks that lack long-term commitment to this style of classical music.

If you only feed children blancmange they do not develop teeth.

As a result they can only eat blancmange for the rest of their lives.

The same applies when you only serve musical blancmange - the audience doesn't develop teeth. Which means concert promoters, broadcasters, record companies, and musicians like you are left with two choices.

Switch all your programmes to musical blancmange - which is what BBC Radio 3 did when they hired Paul 'music for lovers' Gambuccini with disastrous results. And which is what they are doing again with their recent changes to the network, and with programmes like 'Classical Star'..

Or lose your 'new' audience when you serve up more 'chewy' meals.

A generation developed its musical teeth on 'chewy' programmes which included new music delivered by Pierre Boulez (at the BBC ironically) and others, with no blancmange on offer.

Has the current generation lost the ability to grow teeth?

Happily I don't think so. I've been to some wonderfully 'chewy' musical events recently which have attracted new audiences.

The audiences are up for it. But ratings obsessed organisations like the BBC are now so risk averse they don't have the bottle to experiment.

Thankfully others do. And I will return to them later today.
John Brough said…
I do wish we could tune into this in Canada - BBC always has the "good" programming!

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