The decision by the chart compilers CIN to give in to months of lobbying from the record industry means that film, television and stage soundtracks, opera compilations, classical performers who want to go downmarket and pop performers who want to go up will now have their own chart rather than being lost in the lower end of the main pop charts.
The UK's Classical Crossover Chart starts on 29 December and will feature albums deemed classical in content and/or performance, but which are not eligible for the classical chart.
According to CIN's charts director, Catherine Pusey, the new top 50 crossover chart (to run alongside the existing pop and classical charts) will include non-traditional interpretations of classical works, classical-style soundtracks and compilation albums consisting of extracts of classical works. "Up till now everything has been mixed in together and there have been no properly defined eligibility criteria," she said.
Debate over whether to introduce such a chart has been going on within the industry and on the pages of the trade paper Music Week for over a year. Complaints from classical record labels concerning albums excluded from the classical charts have been increasing. But recent events have proved a catalyst for change.
High-profile performers such as the opera singer Lesley Garrett, the sixties icon Marianne Faithful and the classical guitarist John Williams have criticised what they see as the unfairness of having to be judged either pop or classical.
The prime catalyst for the change was Miss Garrett, the English National Opera soprano. She sings solo concerts at large venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and has released albums of what could be termed classic light music by composers such as Gershwin and Jerome Kern. But these high-selling albums were ruled ineligible for the classical charts.
Her album A Soprano In Hollywood would have topped the classical charts but languished at number 57 in the pop charts. "It was not being judged against its peers," Miss Garrett said. "Instead I was being compared to Blur and Oasis, which made absolutely no sense at all."
Faithful complained that her album of Kurt Weil songs, 20th Century Blues, was refused entry to the classical charts, though as an album of cabaret songs it had not been intended for a traditional audience.
John Williams's latest album, John Williams Plays The Movies, caused considerable problems as the main album was movie themes but the package also contained a bonus album of him playing classical music. The package was deemed ineligible for the classical charts, and Williams's chagrin is unlikely to be eased. Ms Pusey said it was also unlikely to be eligible for the new crossover chart.
Miss Garrett, Faithful and Williams are not alone in falling between two charts. The composer Karl Jenkins's Adiemus: Songs Of Sanctuary was initially refused entry to both pop and classical charts as it could not be classified as either. That disc sold a million copies, eventually topping the classical chart after the organisers relented.
"There is a public appetite for music that sounds classical, but isn't," the classical music author Norman Lebrecht said. "Other such proto-classics include Nyman's score for the film The Piano, the rhythm backed records of the Soweto String Quartet, John Williams's theme music for the Atlanta Olympics and the quasi-minimal music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, the Japanese film composer of The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky."
Brian Hopkins, operations director of the classical label BMG Conifer, said of the new chart: "It's extremely good news because it gives a much needed profile to records which might not otherwise be noticed."
Leading article, page 17
Top of the crossover chart
1. Best Opera Album Ever Various
2. No 1 Classical Album Various
3. Something Wonderful Bryn Terfel
4. A Soprano In Hollywood Lesley Garrett
5. Songs Of Sanctuary: Adiemus Karl Jenkins
6. A Lasting Inspiration Jacqueline du Pre
7. Braveheart Official Soundtrack LSO/Horner
8. 100 Popular Classics Various
9. Best Classical Album Ever Various
10. The Piano Soundtrack Michael Nyman
First Test Chart: Source C.I.N.