Someone please tell me why Downton Abbey is top of the classical charts…

Someone please tell me why Downton Abbey is top of the classical charts…


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2012

I’ve had the Nielsen scan figures in and they show a TV album at the top of the classical charts.

Downton Abbey - OST album

Nothing innately odious about that, but then I’m in a minority about Downton Abbey. I watched about ten minutes on television and decided static wallpaper would be more interesting. It was glossy, mushy, predictable, stereotyped period drama and the music, by John Lunn, was a dumbed-down version of Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano. Don Black wrote the song lyrics. You can catch some here.

But the public can’t be wrong, and the charts never lie. So why do I feel as if some monstrous fraud has been committed against the public IQ?

Here’s Nielsen:

CHART: Current Classical Traditional


Week Ending: 01/08/2012  Display: % CHG

Wks   Lbl 2W RK LW RK TW RK Artist                         Title                          TW Sales    % CHG LW Sales RTD Sales




3 LANG LANG                      LISZT – MY PIANO HERO (VINYL)



  • Annika Mylläri says:

    My goodness! Never even noticed there was music in this show. I do object to a CD cover of no musicians, composer’s name – just pics of TV actors. Market forces are so unfair.

  • Alberto Martínez says:

    Well it´s the soundtrack of the series and as such it´s right to use a cover of the cast , just as it is right that Luke Skywalker may appear in a Star Wars soundtrack .The real problem is that gabrieli, bach, revueltas and prokofiev are not number one now .

  • Randolph Magri-Overend says:

    I quite agree. Although we have yet to see the second series of Downton Abbey here in Australia, the first proved that it was nothing more than a glorified soap-opera with (as you so rightly observed Norman) predictable plots. I don’t expect the current series to be any different.

  • Richard Hertz says:

    Man, this is serious news. What next? #1 in 8-tracks sold?

    Maybe people just like the music, and maybe it only takes about 37 copies of an album sold to make #1 in a dying medium, and maybe it’s marketed as classical without anyone really checking into it, because, again, cds and everything…

  • ariel says:

    You’re putting us on !! Public IQ ???
    People get the entertainment they deserve,ir’s for the people who thought the 3 Tenors were “classical music”.

  • Marcus Crompton says:

    Oh come on Norman you’re tugging our lemons aren’t you? I mean, I used to get excited about “the charts” when I was about 13, and I don’t think there was even such a thing as a “classical chart” back then.

    Next you’ll be telling us there is some “Classical” music radio station that is doing countdowns and issuing lists of top 100 pieces. As if.

  • If something is going up and down, this doesn’t mean it’s going to last. It’s like investments and bubbles, you know. And distractions…

  • Tony says:

    How ironic that the only “classical” name here is “NIELSEN” the company who put the chart together.

    Who takes any notice of these charts? They are meaningless except to those who need statistics, especially now that the numbers required to hit the charts are not very big. Business still goes on recording and selling serious music. Please do not get the impression that we have either given up or just create compilations or tv theme albums. Last week we recorded a Handel opera, yesterday we delivered two masters of Tchaikovsky.

  • Daniel Rye says:

    “…a dumbed-down version of Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano.”
    Now that takes some doing.

  • Yi-Peng Li says:

    The Downton Abbey soundtrack features two classical crossover artist, Alfie Boe and Mary-Jess. The Soundscan charts cover both classical and classical crossover releases. So they include the Downton Abbey soundtrack in the classical charts because of the crossover artists it features.

  • dm says:

    I’ve always thought this! such a disgrace lunn is a fraud!!!

  • Wyldgrrl says:

    It’s odd watching a TV series for the first time (which I did yesterday), yet having the conviction that one knows the music already. At first it seemed like Philip Glass, but then I was certain it was Michael Nyman. When I saw the music credited to John Lunn, I had to listen to “The Piano” and follow it immediately with an episode of “Dowton Abbey.” It confirmed my hunch. If George Harrison could successfully be sued for “My Sweet Lord” infringing on “He’s So Fine,” one could surely argue that key elements of Lunn’s score are derivative works. Anyway, thanks for the posts–reassured me that I’m not the only one thinking this!