Classical: Music on Radio 3 - That's Kay, as in take-over

In his eloquent obituary tribute to Robert Simpson in The Independent last Monday, Martin Anderson justly emphasised his unique contribution to serious music broadcasting in this country. Other composers, of course, have worked for the BBC from time to time: Arthur Bliss and Lennox Berkeley were on the music staff during the war; Michael Tippett recorded many talks for the early Third Programme; the young Alexander Goehr was a concert planner in the 1960s; Michael Berkeley is a long-established presenter; and George Benjamin is currently helping to steer the Sounding the Century project. But over his 29 years as a BBC producer from 1951 Simpson exerted a palpable influence over British musical taste: both positively, through his promotion of Bruckner, Nielsen and the long-neglected Havergal Brian, and, more ambiguously, as the central figure in the resistance to the Second Viennese School and the post-war avant-garde.

It would be tempting to suggest that his strengths and weaknesses alike were functions of a narrowness of vision, and it is true that, as broadcaster, writer and composer, he was preoccupied by the Western tradition of symphonic thought - with less concern for vocal forms such as opera, and less still for light, vernacular or non-Western musical traditions. Yet in that sadly missed series he used to devise and introduce, The Innocent Ear, in which one was invited to listen to pieces about which all information was withheld until the end, he could often surprise one by choices seemingly quite outside his own known areas of preference. And when he resigned in 1980 over the BBC's attempt to butcher its house orchestras, and what he already diagnosed as a tendency to sacrifice standards to ratings, he published as a parting shot a pamphlet entitled The Proms and Natural Justice advocating a change of Proms Director at least every five years, so that talented composers of whatever persuasion need not face indefinite exclusion if any one Director happened to dislike them.

Yet Simpson's salient excellence as a broadcaster was surely his expository power - the way that gravelly, no-nonsense voice could convey the significance and excitement of the tonal structure of, say, a Beethoven symphony to ordinary listeners who thought they knew nothing about music. One could not help but listen and one remembered what he said for years. Whereas today... In the proliferation of all those On Airs and In Tunes for casual listeners, the preference seems to be for sweet-talking presentation so instantly forgettable that nobody could possibly be stimulated into turning the thing off. And the archetype of this trend is surely the impeccably homogenised radio persona of Brian Kay.

That Radio 4 chooses to bill its one regular token music slot as Classics with Kay might be construed as a naughty nuance in the direction of Your Hundred Best Tunes. But that sprawling, middle-of-the-road Radio 3 miscellany with only the feeblest attempts to meaningfully link its ad hoc choices, Brian Kay's Sunday Morning, is another matter. Of course the largest audience of the week switch it on: Sunday morning is the time when the maximum number have the leisure to do so - not a few of whom might long since have welcomed the reintroduction of programmes then with a little more variety and substance.

Nothing daunted, Radio 3 may well be introducing from next April a Saturday morning record slot on the lines of Brian Kay's Starter Collection which has been running its conventional way in BBC Music Magazine for years. Meanwhile, it will not have escaped those who tuned in for Andrew Davis's magnficient reading of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, given in St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday in celebration of the BBC's first 75 years, that this too was billed in Radio Times as Brian Kay's Concert of the Week. Where will it end? Brian Kay's Henry Wood's Promenade Concerts? Brian Kay's Radio 3? After all, apart from his early involvement in the King's Singers, who the hell, musically speaking, is Brian Kay?

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Teaching Assistants

    £50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

    Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

    £1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week