BBC Music Magazine
The Full Score
However, majority of Brits also say they would like the opportunity to learn more
Who’s Mozart?; Kanye West’s opera; Mariss Jansons
How much do most people in the UK know about classical music? Not a great deal, would appear to be the answer. In a recent survey, just over 30 per cent of those questioned knew that Elgar was the composer of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and only ten per cent could say who composed ‘Jerusalem’. Asked about today’s leading musical figures, 30 per cent said they knew that Simon Rattle was a conductor and 20 per cent were aware that Nicola Benedetti was a violinist – in contrast, 94 per cent knew who the pop singer Adele was.
For the survey, which was commissioned by the classical music streaming service Primephonic, 2,000 people aged 16 and over were asked a range of questions that produced a number of eye-catching results – not least that 18 per cent of people aged between 16 and 34 believed that JS Bach is still alive, or that 65 per cent of the same age group didn’t know that Mozart was Austrian. Though those in older age groups tended to show a greater knowledge of classical music, 61 per cent of all respondents said that their education hadn’t covered the subject su ciently.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. An encouraging 88 per cent of those asked said they enjoyed classical music when they heard it, and 68 per cent said they wanted to learn more about it. The challenge, it would seem, is to provide the means.
‘To me, this survey is primarily positive news,’ Thomas Ste ens, CEO of Primephonic, tells BBC Music Magazine. ‘If people were simply no longer interested in classical music – if preferences had changed over time – then we’d just have to accept that as a fact of life. However, in this instance, the problem is a fixable one. It simply needs the education system, the music industry and, of course, streaming services to take responsibility.’
Interestingly, Ste ens says that surveys in the US and Holland produced similar results. ‘In the Netherlands, though, we also asked people “Do you know where to find information about what to listen to?”,’ he adds. ‘Older people tended to say “Yes, I do”, while younger ones said “No, I don’t”. Young people like classical music as much as older people, but it is consumed by older people because, through CD collections and so on, they have better access to the information they need to navigate this quite intimidating subject. We now need to accept that there is a “streaming-only” generation and learn to adapt to speak their language.’
In the light of the Primephonic findings, BBC Music Magazine carried out its own brief survey on the streets of central Bristol. Asked to identify pictures of composers, 30 per cent recognised Mozart and 27.5 per cent correctly spotted Beethoven. Of those who did recognise Mozart, however, only 33 per cent knew he was Austrian. In contrast, 90 per cent knew that Beethoven was German.
Only ten per cent of those surveyed could say who composed ‘Jerusalem’