The first question in Key Questions, the panel show on Saturday evening, augured ominously for the rest of the show. Not only did you know, by the way it was phrased, just the kind of answer it was angling for, but it was also sadly uninspiring: 'Should every town have a music festival?' asked a man from the audience. When it was revealed that the questioner was himself organiser of the Bath music festival - which was hosting that week's show - it all began to sound disturbingly cosy, the sort of exercise that turns people off Radio 3 in the first place. As the opening shot in the first programme of a brand new series, it was a disaster.
The panel (a composer, a performer and a critic) was required none the less to ruminate on the music festival conundrum for upwards of five minutes before moving on to other challenges. 'Why do conductors live so long?' Mr Wright from Lincolnshire asked. And, to suggest there was at least a grain of sense lurking behind the question, a snatch of Beethoven was played - conducted by Herbert von Karajan 'who died aged 81'. When the music subsided the panellists were wisely deflected towards answering a different question altogether.
According to the BBC, Key Questions is a musical version of Gardeners' Question Time. They presumably mean by this that it's a panel game, rather than it's about to decamp to Classic FM, but in either case the comparison turned out to be not quite fair. Gardeners' Question Time succeeds - Radio 4's new version included - because it answers a practical need and knows who its audience is. Key Questions didn't appear to understand either of these necessities. Its panellists (the likes of Nigel Kennedy are promised for the future) did a brave job. But they couldn't save it.
By contrast, Radio 3's other innovation of the week, Full Score, knew exactly what it was doing. This quiz has set itself up with weekly guests, team captains, and even that staple representative of official quizdom, the scorer. The games were what you'd expect: snatches of music to be recognised, the odd one out in a list of titles to be guessed. There was one round called the 'Real McOistrakh' in which the teams were asked to tell which of three extracts from the Enigma Variations - or whatever - was being conducted by the composer. The question produced illuminating answers, and succeeded in seconds where Key Questions had struggled for minutes.
Full Score was the BBC doing its light entertainment thing like it always has done, despite - like Key Questions - being the product of an independent company. Either you can tolerate BBC Light Entertaiment or you can't, but you weren't helped by the complex circumlocutions dreamt up by the chairman for the most basic of questions. 'Full Score has set up as a record company catering to minority interests,' Guy Woolfenden - otherwise composer-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company - began one round. 'Could we please have some suggestions of music that would be of interest to zookeepers, vets and animal lovers . . ?'
Or, in plain words: name some music with animals in the title. Which the chaps (all chaps) happily did: Oedipuss Rex, The Love of Three Orangutans, Annie Get your Gnu. It was terrible stuff, really, but somehow also honest and reassuring, and maybe even capable of hitting that elusive spot on the dial where the half million Prom-listeners come from.Reuse content