Happy Birthday to Classic FM which this week is celebrating 25 years on air. The station is owned by the Global media group which runs most of the national commercial radio stations in the UK, including Smooth, Capital, LBC and Heart.
As part of the birthday celebrations, Classic FM has produced a survey of the best selling classical albums of the last 25 years. The soundtrack from the movie Titanic tops the list, with Katherine Jenkins being named as the most popular classical music artist.
Some people may question if the Titanic score really qualifies as a classical work in the truest sense. The top ten of the album list also includes names like Andre Rieu, Russell Watson, The Priests and Charlotte Church. Films scores and compilations such as The Classical Chillout Album feature heavily.
So it’s therefore not surprising that the station isn’t universally popular with classical music purists. The reliance on presenters who are well known TV personalities and a playlist which relies heavily on film scores and light classics is all a bit too populist for many.
Personally I can see where the critics are coming from, even if I am not exactly Classic FM’s target demographic. My musical tastes are more Van Morrison than Van Beethoven.
Defenders of the station would no doubt claim that at least Classic FM tries to introduce classical music to new audiences. After all, BBC Radio 3 is unashamedly elitist and makes very little attempt to be more accessible.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph this week, John Suchet, one of Classic FM’s best known presenters, said that the station regards itself as being in competition with BBC Radio 2, not Radio 3. Perhaps that confirms my suspicion that Classic FM listeners are the sort of people who don’t really appreciate or understand classical music, but desperately want people to think that they do.