Alongside the more highbrow Radio 3, Classic FM is regarded as the Reader’s Digest of classical music. It repeats well-known classics, what impresario Victor Hochauser called the bank manager’s choice, and has disc jockeys. In some programmes the jockettes have velvety sensual voices (like Mylene Klass) which is overdone. I came to it as a poor sleeper because I would often have the radio on during the night. Radio 5 was my station of choice, but their new tendency to feature the killing of children only gave me nightmares. So a soothing nocturne by Chopin at 3-30am had more chance of getting back to slumber.
My two favourite programmes are David Mellor’s New Releases on Saturday evening from 9-10 and his lengthier programme on Sunday.
Yesterday in his Sunday programme he covered the relationship between classic and folk music. This is a subject that has always interested me. Rock music has been criticised for plagiarising the classical, but great composers have never been reproached for interpreting folk tunes. Rafe Vaughan Williams’ lovely lilting and jilting Somerset Songs are often played by me, but I never knew his great friend Gustav Holst also did so. David Mellor, whatever you might think of him as a politician, husband or football populist, has an encyclopaedic knowledge married to a refreshing enthusiasm for classical music. He informed us that Richard Strauss took the popular tune of Funiculi, Funicula for one of his compositions and the actual composer never minded. Added to this, he always gives an insight into a composer’s life. Delius, for example, was ill from syphilis at the end of his life but, blind and paralysed, his music was scored by Eric Fenby, whom David Mellor got to know. Nor is Mellor a snob. One of my favourer CDs – and his – for late night listening is Boeuf Sur le Toit, a collection of twenties jazz played at the Parisen night club of that name. The only drawback of Classic FM is the intrusion of some banal advertising, but it’s a price I’m prepared to pay for the pleasure the station has afforded me.