Bach in demand: listeners hail Radio 3 festival a huge success
Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Thursday January 5, 2006
Radio 3′s decision to devote its schedules to the complete works of Bach for 10 days before Christmas proved a runaway success. Its website received a record number of hits in December, with 3.1m page impressions during the season itself and 2.4m in the runup to it.
Precise listener figures will not surface, however, because Rajar, which measures radio audiences, does not monitor the period around Christmas. Nearly 2,000 emails, more than 90% of them positive, were received by the network, according to the Radio 3 controller, Roger Wright.
Listeners are still adding to the 7,000 postings on the Bach messageboard. Discussions include a request by a woman for “a handsome wealthy guy who can live with Bach and me”. It has elicited 383 responses. Although not everyone enjoyed the superabundance of baroque music (one wrote that the event was “in keeping with the western attitude of flogging, dismantling, and murdering the life blood out of every cultural phenomenon”) most agreed with the listener who described being “intoxicated” by Radio 3′s “brilliant achieveme
Bach-fever also made itself felt commercially. Tony Shaw, buyer of classical music for the chain HMV, said Bach sales had doubled. “People say that classical music is dying, but when it is featured heavily on TV or radio there is a huge response,” he said.
When Radio 3 broadcast the complete works of Beethoven earlier in 2005, it also allowed listeners to download, free of charge, his complete symphonies from its website. The popularity of the scheme, with more than 1m downloads, and furore in the recording industry, meant that a similar facility was not offered this time.
Mr Wright said there were no immediate plans to broadcast complete works of other composers; Mozart’s 250th birthday this month will be celebrated “throughout the year”, he said.
Just as well for one listener, on whom the effect of Bach has been so powerful that he described Mozart as “frivolous junk” on the messageboard, and proposed a Bach-only radio station.