Radio & TV
It's a sure sign of cultural confusion when the Radio 3 birthday party turns into a scrap. Never mind falling out over what it's supposed to be for, we can't even agree on what it is. A narrowly based music station, says one writer, without enough sense of the wider culture. Oh no it isn't, says another - on the contrary the sun never sets on its musical range, it just talks the wrong way.
I don't want to intrude on private wars but I think we're missing the point here. What Radio 3 and its predecessors have always done is to parade a generation's hard-won perspective for the uplift of the next generation. Unfortunately for music it runs into the Great Law of cultural change: in an island nation, everything happens 10 years too late. Take Bruckner. There's nobody better to hear on the subject than Stephen Johnson, and his current series of talks deserves the success of the BBC's pioneering Bruckner series 30 years ago. But there is a crucial difference. Back then, we didn't know the music and simply hearing it was a revelation. Now we can buy or borrow it in a box that takes up less shelf space than A Suitable Boy. So why is precious airtime used to amplify the discussion with exhaustive complete performances, when there is so much music we still don't hear?
Radio 3 makes a convenient scapegoat, but it reflects the realities of power in classical music. Channel 4's desperately earnest but muddle-headed series Leaving Home is also heading into yesterday's battlefields with the inevitability of a Great War tank. It squanders its greatest asset, Simon Rattle, by making him parrot second-hand history. Sir Simon reading autocue in your face is just not the same as Master Rattle being boisterous, jokey and inspirational on the podium. …