This is not the first time I've ranted about classical radio. I have been fortunate to live in some places with really good classical radio stations (I grew up with KUSC in Los Angeles, where I heard many great pieces and performers for the first time, and, here in Boston, WGBH is one of the best). However, I am often perplexed at the programming choices, and I wonder if anyone else feels as I do.
What confuses me is the amount of second-rate music being programmed. I understand that there would be *some* interest in hearing lesser-known music. But today in the car - during morning "drive time," when I assume competition for radio listeners is particularly keen - we had, in succession, works by: Antonio Salieri; Lennox Berkeley (who?); Jean-Louis Tulou (again, who?); Ottorino Respighi (a known composer, though not of the first rank); and Bernhard Henrik Crusell (who??). I know a lot about classical music and had never heard of these composers. And trust me, there was not a single piece among these that I need or want to hear a second time.
Who, among the listeners of classical radio, would rather hear that much garbage without being interrupted by SOMETHING by a great composer? Today's experience was not an isolated one - I have noticed this time and time again during the morning when driving to Boston Conservatory, when I am made to wonder, "Is Classical Music really this boring?" only to realize that there have existed, throughout history, mediocre, uninspired composers, and fortunately I usually don't bother to listen to their music.
Now I understand that people are excited to discover something "new," though the Spohr Violin Concerto I managed to miss hearing this morning (thankfully) was written 200 years ago - we've had plenty of time to figure out that this is not important music.
On this very same radio station in the afternoon, the programming was MUCH better - a Brahms Symphony, a Beethoven Quartet, and yes, the occasional novelty, but one that had been carefully selected as a neglected but worthwhile piece (say, the Poulenc Flute Sonata, or a less-played Tchaikovsky orchestral piece). Am I the only one who doesn't like having my time wasted? And was the programming better in the afternoon as a response to different kinds of listeners? Are the afternoon listeners more discriminating, or less forgiving of banality?
I think the reason I am so worked up about this is that some people in the world - most, probably - see classical music as dull, sleepy, a relic of bygone eras. I KNOW that it isn't this way - and when radio stations play @#)$(* like I heard this morning, they are losing the opportunity to open people's eyes to the Beethoven "Appassionata" Sonata or Schubert's "Winterreise." It is only confirming those listeners' impression that classical music is irrelevant, when they hear the Tulou Nocturne for harp and flute. Little do they know what they are missing when they don't know the Shostakovich 10th Symphony, or the Bach Chaconne.
By the way, I should clarify that I don't mean music always has to be serious. I don't mean to suggest we should only be dining on steak, but there is such a thing as a great dessert. I do NOT usually enjoy Saint-Saens (that's like ordering a steak at Denny's) but I certainly enjoy the music of Fritz Kreisler, for example.