Our Classical Century

Our Classical Century
Picture Shows: Suzy Klein, Sir Lenny Henry. Image Credit: BBC/Lion TV.

If there is an objection to this programme, it is when host Suzy Klein argues that classical music is the genre that has won the place in our hearts the most. Tell that to most working class people.

It is impossible to talk about classical music in this country without the divide in class being mentioned. Classical has always felt the reserve of the upper and middle class, even if that was not the intention of the people who made it.

This opening episode, also featuring Lenny Henry, looks at the years after World War One, and examines some classical pieces that helped to shape the nation. These include “Mars” from Holst’s The Planets and Parry’s adaptation of Jerusalem. There is also an examination of changing technology that was embraced by Elgar.

Of course, these are all great pieces. You cannot really fault the music. The issue with classical is the way it is presented and viewed by people. Lenny Henry does help in this regard, especially when talking about the little-known black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose piece Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was the most popular show of its day, but is now sadly forgotten.

I will admit that the show does make me want to listen to more classical works. You just fear the class baggage that comes with it.

Our Classical Century is on BBC Four at 21.00 on Thursdays.