What happened when national radio played only pre-1945 music…

What happened when national radio played only pre-1945 music…


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2017

Bulgarian radio is in dispute with the national copyright agency.

So it is restricted to playing music written before 1945.

The ratings are just in for January.

Listening is up by 20 percent.

Is there a lesson in this, somewhere?


  • Peter Cigleris says:

    Definitely a lesson here. It goes to show that pre avant garde repertoire needs to make a comeback. Just think about the amount of unsung British composers could be played.

  • Minaccisoa says:

    Bulgaria is blessed with good to excellent (and possibly great) composers who were active pre-1945. They are particularly blessed with an operatic tradition of performance and composers that dates to the 19th century. If they were forced to they could go years playing only Bulgarian works created up to 1945 and never play a bad one. That they also have the international repertoire of the prescribed period available is indeed a demonstration of something, though that something may be unwelcome to elites who fancy themselves arbiters of musical taste. People are voting with their ears.

  • MacroV says:

    The first question is how much post-1945 music were they playing “before?” And what was it? I have my doubts they were playing big doses of (very) late Schoenberg, Carter, and Ligeti.

  • George says:

    Good point! The problem that many audiences (especially American) have with contemporary music is that orchestras and radios tend to restrict their contemporary repertoire to second rate neo-tonal/neo-romantic works that might be more initially pleasing to listeners but ultimately fails to spark any interest. Composers like Boulez, Berio, Ligeti, and Carter, as well as the Second Viennese School are left in the dust.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I wanted to explain that new tonal music does not automatically mean ‘audience pleasing’ soft stuff to massage exhausted nerves, blunted by the modern life outside the concert hall, and that it would be understandable that classical music audiences would not like to get inside the hall the same intrusive emotional disruptions they are regularly exposed to outside the hall, and that this were not escapism but a justified wish for therapeutic restoration to be better armed to face the agitprop of the modern world again on the next day, but Sally stopped me – seeing the name of PB in the comment.

  • Peter says:

    HELLO GENTLEMEN, read before talking. I know, that’s hard for the classical music die hard opinionated half-educated brain bias.
    We are talking about ALL music here, that includes rock, pop etc.
    The rock/pop channel ratings are up 20% since they play only pre-1945 music.
    Now that’s something…

    • John Borstlap says:

      The heading of the article is the confusing bit; ‘Balkan Insight’ as a formulation seems to be a bit on the over-enthusiastic side. With ‘classics’ is indeed meant, poop music. Sorry – pop music. So, in spite of Bulgaria’s reputation in the classical music field, also there, the egalitarian erosion has made inroads.

  • Joel says:

    Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Philip Glass ?

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    I thought the copyright laws pertained to the year of the death of the composer (70 years), not when the music was actually composed. The only exception to this, as far as I know, is the US, which has a 95-year rule after the work was first “made known” in the US, that is, usually, performed there for the first time.
    That was we have the apparent contradiction that a work by, say, Sibelius, that is in copyright everywhere, could be in the Public Domain in the US, or conversely, that the late symphonies by Nielsen are copyrighted in the US, whereas he is in the PD in the rest of the world, having died in 1931.
    Is Bulgaria having different laws here?

  • Fritz says:

    The only lesson is: Be in dispute (and bring that to the media) to gain more listeners! Sorry, but Lebrecht’s fast assumptions lack a feeling for statistical theory…

  • Peter says:

    HALLO PEOPLE, again, this is 95% about POP and ROCK music.
    Thanks for actually listening.

  • Will Duffay says:

    It’s probably due to the publicity.