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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Coordinator

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

    Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

    £350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

    Embedded Linux Engineer

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

    Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz