The BBC announces host of new classical music programming across TV and Radio

The BBC announces host of new classical music programming across TV and Radio
  • BBC Radio 3 unveils refreshed schedule, welcoming new talent to its presenting family alongside a raft of new commissions
  • BBC TV announces major new series and performance highlights from across the UK

Sam Jackson, Controller BBC Radio 3 and BBC Proms said: “Distinctiveness and ambition are at the heart of the new Radio 3 schedule, as we look to delight our existing audience whilst also offering a raft of programmes that give new listeners a reason to join us. Today, we cement our commitment to live music, and take the opportunity to tell powerful stories through the magical medium of radio. From Clemency Burton-Hill’s major series on the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, to Soweto Kinch’s nightly jazz programme, Radio 3 is offering a diverse range of programmes unlike anything available elsewhere. This new schedule, coupled with our forthcoming BBC Proms season which is shaping up to be one of our most ambitious yet, makes this an exciting time for music at the BBC.”

Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts and Classical Music TV said: “I am delighted to announce the classical music highlights for 2024. A record-breaking year for the Proms on television and iPlayer last year showed just how much of an appetite there is from TV audiences for classical music programmes which inspire, delight and provoke. Our plans for the coming year include a major new documentary on the true story of Mozart’s life and work; a new TV film of Britten’s Curlew River; gold-standard performances including The Merry Widow and the European premiere of Gospel Messiah, and Arena documentaries on Steven McRae and Maria Callas. I can’t wait to bring this exciting range of music programmes to BBC audiences.”

BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 today unveils its new schedule with a raft of new programmes at its heart. Favourites such as BreakfastEssential Classics and Private Passions are extended. Clemency Burton-Hill returns to BBC Radio 3, and the station welcomes new presenters including Soweto KinchNicola Benedetti, Jools Holland and Clive Myrie. Meanwhile regulars Tom Service and Sara Mohr-Pietsch host new programmes exploring a wide range of historic and contemporary repertoire.

  • Clemency Burton-Hill returns to Radio 3 with an exclusive interview with Daniel Barenboim, as part of a new series celebrating the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at 25
  • In The Land Without Music? The Times’ Chief Culture Writer Richard Morrison explores the state of classical music and music education in this country
  • Violinist and Edinburgh International Festival Director Nicola Benedetti makes her Radio 3 presenting debut in a series focusing on the history and impact of the International Festival in Scotland and beyond 
  • Clive Myrie hosts Music on the Frontline, talking to fellow journalists about the way in which classical music has sustained them while reporting on some of the most relevant and challenging news stories of our times
  • New nightly programme Round Midnight with saxophonist and broadcaster Soweto Kinch showcases the very best jazz, with a particular focus on the British scene
  • Jools Holland shares his love and knowledge of classical music in a new Saturday lunchtime programme, Earlier…with Jools Holland
  • Tom Service hosts a new live Saturday morning programme featuring three hours of diverse classical repertoire and interviews. He is joined by guests to discuss and unpack the latest stories in the arts world
  • Sara Mohr-Pietsch presents a new Sunday afternoon programme, exploring classical pieces in the context of their history, legacy and connections to other works  
  • Radio 3 relaunches Friday Night is Music Night, a new home for the BBC Concert Orchestra to explore repertoire ranging from the golden age of light music to the best in film and TV scores
  • Strengthening its commitment to live and specially-recorded music, Radio 3 introduces a three-hour weekday afternoon programme from Salford, Classical Live, showcasing the best performances from the UK and beyond, recorded by the BBC and our partners in the European Broadcasting Union
  • Speech programmes include: historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough on the music of the Vikings, composer Erland Cooper focusing on the myth of phantom islands, a musical celebration of MGM at 100 with broadcaster Neil BrandKatie Derham on how plants and gardens have inspired composers through the ages, and an exploration of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and its enduring popularity 
  • Further highlights include the extension of Radio 3 Breakfast with Petroc Trelawny, Essential Classics with Georgia Mann and Private Passions with Michael Berkeley, and the long-running Composer of the Week with Donald Macleod and Kate Molleson at a new time of 4pm

New programmes on Radio 3 from April 2024 include:

  • Radio 3’s long-running Music Matters moves to a new time with a new format. (Saturdays, 13:00 – 14:00) A series of programmes telling exceptional stories through music and diving deep into topics where history, news and classical music intertwine. This includes: Clemency Burton-Hill returning to Radio 3 to mark the 25th anniversary of the ground-breaking West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, including an exclusive interview with acclaimed conductor, pianist and ensemble co-founder Daniel Barenboim, recorded in Berlin.
  • Acclaimed violinist and former BBC Young Musician winner Nicola Benedetti – Director of the Edinburgh International Festival  makes her Radio 3 presenting debut in a series that explores the role of the Festival in shaping culture in Scotland and beyond.
  • The Times’ Chief Culture Writer Richard Morrison hosts The Land Without Music? After a challenging year where classical music in the UK has been regularly in the news, Morrison explores whether the country is still committed to the art form. In his quest to find out, Richard speaks to musicians, educators, cultural commentators and policy makers, asking whether music in the UK risks losing a place of relevance – or conversely, if the situation is actually far brighter than some might suggest.
  • In Music on the Frontline with Clive Myrie, the broadcaster shares stories of comfort provided by classical music while reporting on relevant and challenging news stories. He talks to a range of fellow correspondents including John Suchet, John Simpson, Christina Lamb and Matt Frei about their listening habits while reporting.
  • Earlier… with Jools Holland, where the pianist and broadcaster shares his lifelong passion for classical music, from his love of well-known works to new discoveries by today’s composers and performers. Jools will be joined by guests revealing their own favourite classical music (Saturdays, 12:00 -13:00).
  • Two of Radio 3’s best-loved voices host new weekend programmes. In a new, live programme for Saturday mornings, Tom Service features three hours of diverse classical repertoire, and explores the vibrant music scene today. Alongside the very best recordings – from the historic to the brand new – Tom interviews many of the world’s most famous performers, and is joined by guests to discuss and unpack the latest stories in the arts world (Saturdays, 9:00-12:00)
  • Sara Mohr-Pietsch’s new Sunday afternoon programme explores classical works and their connections with other genres and time periods (Sundays, 13:30 – 15:00).
  • Radio 3 is the new home of Friday Night is Music Night, featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra in performances of light music from Europe and America, alongside classical favourites, operetta, music for theatre, and a range of film and TV scores, both popular and rarely-heard. (Fridays, 19:30 – 22:00). Presented by Katie Derham and Petroc Trelawny. Radio 2 will continue to broadcast Sunday Night is Music Night specials regularly through the year.

Round Midnight is a new evening programme presented by British saxophonist Soweto Kinch, adding a weekday jazz focus to the station’s schedule, while Jazz Record Requests remains as a Sunday slot dedicated to the genre. Round Midnight features the best in jazz, with a particular focus on British artists (Mon-Fri, 23:30 – 00:30). 

  • Classical Live is a new weekday three-hour afternoon programme from Salford, presented by Tom McKinney, Elizabeth Alker, Linton Stephens and Fiona Talkington. Emphasising Radio 3 as the home of live classical music, the programme will bring listeners exclusive performances of orchestral and chamber music recorded by BBC Radio 3 and the European Broadcasting Union, across the UK and beyond. The programme will also be a showcase for BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists as well as the BBC’s own orchestras and choirs (Mon – Friday, 13:00 – 16:00).

BBC Radio 3 renews its partnerships with the Edinburgh International Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and, in its 75th year, the Aldeburgh Festival. The station will broadcast concerts and exclusive interviews from these key events in the UK classical music calendar, with further details to be announced in due course.

Radio 3 also marks two very different centenaries with special broadcasts: on 15th April, the station celebrates the great British conductor Sir Neville Marriner on what would have been his 100th birthday, with every piece of music from 7am to 7pm featuring Marriner on the podium. Across the day, listeners will hear archive recordings, personal stories and memories of this much-loved musician, from Breakfast and Essential Classics through to Composer of the Week and In Tune. The day culminates in a live concert from the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields (of which Marriner was the founder), led by the Academy’s current Music Director, violinist Joshua Bell.

The Story of Beatrice Harrison sees cellist Kate Kennedy revisiting the location and story of the legendary 19th May 1924 broadcast, when Beatrice Harrison played live from a Surrey garden alongside a nightingale. The public reaction was such that the experiment was repeated the next month and then every spring for years after. Harrison became internationally renowned and she received 50,000 fan letters. Kennedy explores why birdsong and music have become so entwined, and how the early BBC engineers made that first broadcast happen (Sunday 19 May).

Upcoming Sunday Features include: historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough on the music of the Vikings (Music of the Vikings); Neil Brand marking the 100th birthday of MGM film studios, charting the rise and fall of the MGM musical (MGM at 100); a programme tracing the story of Gavin Bryars’ enduring minimalist masterpiece Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Never Failed Me Yet); and a re-telling of the life of Japanese composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto one year after his untimely death (Sakamoto- Art is Long, Life is Short).

As part of The Essay, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper transports listeners to phantom islands, scoring music for mythical places (Erland Cooper’s Phantom Islands); and Katie Derhamexplores how plants have inspired composers through the ages, coinciding with the start of the Chelsea Flower Show (Music in Bloom).

Between the Ears runs later (19:15 – 20:00) and The Essay earlier (Mon- Fri, 21:45- 22:00).

Also included in the new schedule, saxophonist Jess Gillam presents an extended version of the popular radio show This Classical Life on Saturday evenings, with guests from the music world (Saturdays, 17:00 – 18:00), while Hannah French becomes the sole presenter of The Early Music Show (Sundays 17:00 – 18:00). Record Review moves to Saturday afternoon (Saturdays, 14:00 – 16:00), Night Tracks increases to five episodes a week, with an earlier start (Sunday – Thursday, 22:00 – 23:30), Unclassified moves to Sunday night (23:30 – 00:30), and Music Planet moves to Saturday night (Saturdays 21:30 – 22:30).

Current speech programmes The Verb and Free Thinking move to a new home on BBC Radio 4, with broadcast times to be confirmed in the coming weeks. The Listening Service moves from a weekly show and will appear seasonally during BBC Proms broadcasts.

BBC Television

Mozart: Rise of a Genius (w/t)3×60

From the team behind the acclaimed Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius, comes a landmark series looking at the life and work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On the fortieth anniversary of the release of the film Amadeus, this series will separate the truth from the mythology surrounding the child prodigy and genius composer who was feted by kings and emperors and whose life was cut short by a bitter musical rivalry. We think we know him: but the truth is very different. 

This series recounts the extraordinary true story of Mozart’s life, using a blend of drama and interviews with world-leading musicians, historians and experts to reflect on the twists and turns of the composer’s incredible life. It’s a dark family saga of ambition, betrayal, grief and death, from which Mozart emerges as a complex and contradictory character, driven to succeed as a composer on his own terms after being wheeled around the courts of Europe as a musical prodigy by a father who drove him mercilessly from infancy. His story is set against the shifting political world of Europe on the eve of the French Revolution, as an archaic system of musical patronage gives way to a world in which genius is recognised for itself.

With Mozart’s extraordinary music as a soundtrack, expert contributors will offer close readings and interpretation of his greatest works, from The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute and Piano Concerto No.21 to lesser-known but no less influential pieces such as the Piano Sonata No. 8, A Musical Joke, and Symphony No.31, the Paris Symphony.

Arenas

Ballet dancer Steven McRae and opera singer Maria Callas are the focus of two new Arena films this year.

Arena: Steven McRae – Dancing Back to the Light charts the physical and mental journey back from the brink of Steven McRae, one of the Royal Ballet’s principal dancers. In the middle of a performance in 2019, he was catastrophically injured, tearing his Achilles tendon. At 35 years old his career was dramatically halted just as it was reaching its peak, to the extent that he wondered if he would ever be able to dance again. Could he ever return to the stage and stay on it for the entire season? Would he ever be able to get back to the level he was at before the fall? Over the course of a year, director Stéphane Carrel filmed the return of this spectacular dancer to his company, his recovery training alongside a deeper question of whether the pressures of being an elite performer contributed to his downfall. Can Steven triumph against the setbacks and dance his way back into the light?

Arena: Maria Callas (w/t) focuses on the great classical diva of modern times: known around the world for her beauty and fiery temper as much as her voice. She was a cover star with a thirst for the high-life and the looks of a supermodel. She dominated opera until disaster struck – she fell in love with Aristotle Onassis, and when he left her for Jackie Kennedy her life fell apart.

But this tragic legend of Maria Callas isn’t true: Callas was nobody’s victim. She was defiant, exacting – a woman who blazed a trail for female artists of today. But there was one thing that mattered more to her than anything – her astonishing, life-changing voice. It was gradually failing her. And she knew it.

At her peak in the 1950s Callas averaged 50 appearances a year. But between 1959 and 1963 she sang in public only 28 times. She cancelled performances, earning her an (undeserved) reputation as an erratic diva. This film is, in part, a detective story: what was it that made Maria Callas lose her voice?

This film is also a celebration of Callas – her brilliance, originality and determination to be the greatest opera singer alive. A stellar cast of experts and admirers uncover the truth about her and the gift of her extraordinary voice. Her impact on classical music was revolutionary, bringing forgotten roles into the limelight and making them her own: magnificent, indomitable heroines. Callas is the artist who reminded the world what opera is for.

Curlew River 1×75

Shot on location in the Suffolk countryside, a new film of Britten’s mystical masterpiece Curlew River has been commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first performance and filmed as part of the 75th Aldeburgh Festival 2024. The film is shot in the open Fenland landscape as evoked in Britten’s music, along with the beautiful surroundings of Blythburgh Church – known as the Cathedral of the Marshes.

The stellar cast is led by tenor Ian Bostridge, bass-baritone Sir Willard White, baritone Peter Brathwaite, and singers and alumni from the Britten Pears Young Artists programme. It is being reimagined for the stage by Claire van Kampen and the music director is Audrey Hyland. 

Curlew River is one of Benjamin Britten’s most inventive and mesmerising creations: a Japanese theatre Noh-inspired one-act parable that tells of the rejection, humiliation and ultimate acceptance of an outsider, a woman driven mad by the loss of her son but who finds peace at his grave. It is unique – not only in opera but in theatre, merging the mesmerising sound-world of the East with the heart of an English medieval mystery play.  

Performance highlights

BBC Four continues to be the home of great performances from around the UK, from festivals to concerts and competitions. They include Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow from Glyndebourne, starring Danielle de Niese and conducted by John Wilson; Marin Alsop conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus and the London Adventist Choir at the Royal Albert Hall in Gospel Messiah in its European premiere; Inside Classical performances showcasing the work of the BBC’s Orchestras includes Grieg’s Piano Concerto with pianist Zee Zee and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Gemma New conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Brahms Symphony No 4 in E Minor along with Geneva Lewis performing Barber’s Violin Concerto. Television teams up with Radio 3 for the relaunch of Friday Night is Music Night to bring audiences Music Night at Alexandra Palace (w/t) with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

BBC Young Musician’s final returns to BBC Two for the first time since 2012, with the quarter, semi-finals and auditions airing on BBC Four, where BBC Young Jazz Musician will also be broadcast; the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will return for their traditional New Year’s Day and summer concerts from the Austrian capital; there will be an extended programme from this year’s Leeds Piano competition and the BBC Proms makes a welcome return to BBC One, Two and Four this summer after a record breaking year for television and radio audiences in 2023.

BBC RADIO 3 SCHEDULE IN DETAIL (FROM APRIL 2024)

Saturdays

06:30 – 09:00    Saturday Breakfast with Elizabeth Alker (extended by 30 mins)

09:00- 12:00    Saturday Morning with Tom Service

12:00 -13:00    Earlier…with Jools Holland

13:00 – 14:00   Music Matters including: Clemency Burton-Hill on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at 25; Richard Morrison’s The Land Without Music?, Clive Myrie’s Music on the Frontline and Nicola Benedetti’s focus on the history and impact of the Edinburgh International Festival

14:00 – 16:00   Record Review with Andrew McGregor (replaces Inside Music and moves from Saturday morning)

16:00 – 17:00   Sound of Cinema/Sound of Gaming (moves an hour later)

17:00 – 18:00   This Classical Life with Jess Gillam (replaces J to Z; moves later)

18:00 – 21:30   Opera on 3 (moves 30 mins earlier)

21:30 – 22:30   Music Planet (moves from Saturday afternoon)

22:30 – 00:30   New Music Show (moves 30 mins later)

Sundays

00:30 – 06:30   Through The Night (30 mins earlier on weekends)

06:30 – 09:00    Sunday Breakfast with Tom McKinney (extended by 30 mins)

09:00 – 12:00    Sunday Morning with Sarah Walker

12:00-13:30     Private Passions with Michael Berkeley (extended by 30 mins)

13:30-15:00      Sunday Afternoon programme with Sara Mohr-Pietsch

15:00-16:00     Choral Evensong (repeat)

16:00-17:00     Jazz Record Requests with Alyn Shipton

17:00 -18:00    The Early Music Show with Hannah French (later start time)

18: 00-19:15    Words and Music (later start time)

19:15-20:00     Sunday Feature / Between the Ears (later start time)

20:00-22:00     Drama on 3 (later start time)

22:00-23:30     Night Tracks (introduced to Sunday night)

23:30-00:30     Unclassified with Elizabeth Alker (moves from Thursday night) 

Monday – Friday

00:30-06:30     Through the Night

06:30-09:30     Radio 3 Breakfast with Petroc Trelawny (extended by 30 mins)

09:30-13:00     Essential Classics with Georgia Mann (extended by 30 mins)

13:00-16:00     Classical Live (Mon-Fri)/ Live from Wigmore Hall (13:00 -14:00 on Mondays)/  Choral Evensong (Wednesdays, 15:00 – 16:00 – moves an hour earlier)

16:00-17:00     Composer of the Week with Donald Macleod and Kate Molleson (moves from 12:00)

17:00-19:00     In Tune with Sean Rafferty and Katie Derham

19:00-19:30     The Classical Mixtape

19:30-21:45     Radio 3 In Concert

21:45-22:00     The Essay (Mon – Fri, earlier start)

22:00-23:30     Night Tracks (Mon -Thu, starts 30 mins earlier

23:30-00:30 Round Midnight with Soweto Kinch

Friday evening schedule

19:30–21:45     Friday Night is Music Night

21:45–22:00      The Essay

22:00-23:30     Late Junction (earlier start and shortened by 30 minutes)

23:30-00:30 ’Round Midnight with Soweto Kinch

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