Breaking news - BBC Radio 3 does something right
Quite justifiably BBC Radio 3 has come in for much criticism in recent times. But let's give credit when the broadcaster does something right; which happened last week with the broadcast of Otto Ketting's Fourth Symphony. Dutch composer Otto Ketting (b. 1935) writes uncompromising but accessible music that looks forward from a ground of, amongst other, Stravinsky, Berg and Mahler. His Third Symphony (see CD above) with its cod-Mahlerian references in the slow movement deserves to reach a wide audience. But it will not, because the symphony and the composer do not tick today's right cultural boxes. (Incidentally, Ketting is not a Mahler nerd but recognises the wide appeal of his adagios.)
Otto Ketting is just one of several Dutch composers whose music is overlooked simply because it fails the box ticking test. Recently I highlighted the work of the sadly departed Wim Henderickx, and over the years the music of Lex van Delden (1919-1988) has been highlighted here. Lex van Delden's music first came to my attention in the 1970s through a performance by Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Other notable conductors who programmed his music were George Szell and Eugen Jochum.
As I write Lex van Delden's Sinfonia No.3 'Facets' plays in the Etcetra recording by Haitink and the Concertgebouw, and it is very fine music indeed which just cries out to be heard. Here we have yet another richly talented composer condemned to box ticking obscurity, so kudos to Radio 3 for bringing his music to a wide audience. For readers who want to venture even further from today's social media-driven classical mundanity, I recommend browsing the Belgian Etcetra label's website.
Going even further back in history pianist Jacob Bogaart's 8 CD labour of love 'The Art of Dutch Keyboard Music' featured here in 2017, while animateur par excellence David Munrow's 'The Art of the Netherlands' is also essential listening.(Dutch readers please note: I will be in your fine country again in May avoiding the UK coronation brouhaha.)
Airing Otto Ketting's Fourth Symphony is a very small step in the right direction for BBC Radio 3. But the broadcaster still has a very long way to go to win me back as a regular listener. I suggest the next step should be an awayday for all Radio 3 presenters at which they are forced to sit through Philip Gröning's instructive 162 minute movie 'Into Great Silence'.