Arts: The Week in Radio

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The Independent Culture
THERE WERE several occasions during David Mellor's conversation with Chris Eubank when the pair of them must have felt like throwing in the towel. They got together last Sunday to have a cosy fireside chat about operas and symphonies, only to find themselves being constantly interrupted by hordes of boxing commentators. Across the Threshold (Classic FM) was billed as the fighter's introduction to classical music, and at two hours duration the programme promised to be more than just a lightweight contest. The formula was simple: Mellor began with the music that started it all for him, then listened to a favourite of Eubank's followed by something he thought his guest should get into. And so on. It was a nice idea and both parties seemed happy to listen to what the other had to offer. Only trouble was, every time either of them passed a critical remark, the excited voice of a ringside reporter would cut in with a comment of his own. This was most distracting.

"Did that do anything for you?" asked Mellor, after playing a piece by Johann Strauss "No," replied Chris Eubank. "A very good countering right uppercut!" bellowed the pundit.

These interruptions happened time and time again, as though the two men were beating the living daylights out of each other, rather than taking part in a civilised discussion.

Not that Eubank was helping matters much. Very little seemed to impress him, and even after an aria from Jussi Bjoerling he dared to say, "I've heard better." An instant later the roving sportscaster threw in his penn'orth: "He's very dangerous with his back to the ropes like that!"

After the news break the continuity announcer joined in the boxing theme, describing Mellor as "going into the ring" with Eubank. This was getting serious. DM was stunned into silence as his opponent subjected him to a dreary poem about the soul. Manfully he came back with Brahms' Third Symphony, ordering Eubank to listen to it once a week for the next three months. The bout was declared a draw.

I'll tell you what though, pop-pickers, there's a lot of this classical stuff about. Over on Radio 2, Alan Freeman was returning with a new series of Their Greatest Bits, the Tuesday night session in which he plays as many prime cuts as possible. If you're going to try to popularise the classics, then Fluff is definitely the best man for the job.

"Greetings, music lovers," he began, before giving us some momentous chunks of Verdi, Chopin, Haydn and Beethoven interspersed with orchestral jingles, assorted fanfares and potted librettos. What we didn't get was a run down of the Top 20, Freeman's speciality. Nonetheless, consolation was at hand in the shape of Mozart's Symphony No 40 in G minor. As the veteran DJ pointed out, not only was this a hit in the late 18th century, but it also got to Number 5 in the Pop Charts in April 1971. Wow! And to avoid an outbreak of domestic disputes, he played a snippet of the "other version" which charted the same month, known simply as "Mozart 40".

"Alright?" he asked, in time-honoured fashion. Yes thanks.

By the way, in tomorrow's edition of Across the Threshold, David Mellor faces Ronnie Corbett. The big bully.