ClassicFM listeners still love what they loved last year. Wonder why?

ClassicFM listeners still love what they loved last year. Wonder why?


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2021

Must be because the station plays the same small playlist over and over again.

The listeners have once more chosen Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending as their favourite music, for the 11th time.

You would have thought the lining of their ears would be worn out by now.



  • Derek H says:

    I rarely listen to Classicfm. It started out with a narrow choice of music and then deteriorated over time.

    Many of the listeners do not hear much classical music elsewhere or attend concerts, so it is obvious that the limited playlist influences which music wins votes.

    The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis are played almost every day. The apathy and lack of curiosity displayed is incredible.

    It is a pity Classicfm can’t show more imagination and ambition. Nevertheless, it appeals to a loyal audience, so good luck to them.

    • Reece Jennings says:

      It totally eludes me that anyone could like like such a less than mediocre third rate piece of hack music.

      • Marfisa says:

        Perhaps your musical taste is less developed than that of listeners to ClassicFM, if that is seriously your judgment of this piece (which, incidentally, is not on ClassicsFM’s playlist almost every day).

        • Derek H says:

          You are right to correct me, Marfisa.

          I should be more precise. One of several popular Vaughan Williams pieces is likely to be played almost every day.

          I don’t dislike them but they are played too much.

  • I hate the way they announce “The Bruch Violin Concerto” when in fact there are three of them, but CFM never even bother saying “number 1”. It’s a joke of a station, all that reverb they put on it plus the volume equalisation.

    I think the only Stravinsky they’ve ever done is the end of the Firebird

  • M McAlpine says:

    Wow! All these people listening to classical music for enjoyment! Quite criminal really! Give them some Birtwistle as punishment!

  • microview says:

    Yes but Bruch’s VC No 1 has slipped several places!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Because the vast majority of classical music listeners are older, hidebound musical conservatives who do not like their delicate sensibilities disturbed by listening to anything new, that’s why.

    • Luca says:

      I appreciate what Stockhausen and others of his ilk have achieved in showing us a new way to listen but whenever I get to the end of a piece I find myself thinking, “Now how about some Mozart?”

  • J Barcelo says:

    I thought this could only happen in America. The Phoenix station, KBAQ, plays the same repertoire day in and out. They’re now on another pointless Top-100 count down. All baroque, classical, romantic; only rarely venturing in the the 20th c and the avant-garde is non-existent. I mean, how many times does one need to hear the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in a week? Thank god the Tucson station, KUAT, has more intelligent programming and not afraid of more challenging fare.

  • Duncan says:

    It’s the old argument: let’s play the public what they want/like… but the public only wants/likes what it hears being played. There are exceptions of course. ClassicFM does a good service but the playlists are very repetitive. Occasionally something different pops out though.

  • Gustavo says:

    Oh, and John Williams has again been voted “most popular living composer”.

    What a surprise!

  • Stweart says:

    “What do they know of MUSIC who only Classic F M know ?”
    The “brain wash” channel

  • Stephen Birkin says:

    Some years ago, listening to the radio whilst driving into town, I heard the first recording of the piano concerto no. 4 in F minor by Scharwenka, coupled with the first recording of Sauer’s pc no. 1. The station broadcasting? Classic FM, not Radio 3. I see musical snobbery is alive and well. Incidentally those recordings are/were on Hyperion – Stephen Hough with the CBSO and Lawrence Foster.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      It’s not (or not only) snobbery, but extreme impatience with the idea that classical music must be anodyne. And the Scharwenka and Sauer concerti (which I enjoy hearing from time to time) do not step outside the bounds of the anodyne.

  • Gustavo says:

    What does FM stand for?

  • microview says:

    It’s the presentation that’s nauseating – the idea that music serves to smooth away the concerns of the day. ‘Smooth’ a keyword for this station and Rachmaninov Second Symphony slow movt. ever in the schedules. I thought that when Cowan’s Classics was axed (he rightly says because the repertoire didn’t always suit the advertisers) it was ironic to hear that weekend ex TV news reader Moira Stuart follow Nigel Hess’s godawful piano concerto with a long stretch of Karl Jenkins…. wonder how happy that would have made someone who’d placed an ad series.

  • Elizabeth M. Salter says:

    I listen to Classic FM as pleasant background music. It is the presenters whom I find irritating. They rarely give the name of the composer and the name of the piece which should be given at the beginning and end of each piece, not such introductions as “And now it’s off to sunny Spain” or “Enjoy this with a nice cup of tea” or “That was ****** and before that “we played ******”. !!!!!!

  • Ernest Spain says:

    Reading these comments I can say I am very fortunate to live in Philadelphia. WRTI 90.1 FM plays a wide range of classical, very early to very modern, including African American and women composers, and in the evening a broad range of jazz. Opera on Saturday. Highly educational as well.

    • Saxon says:

      Few people in Britain with genuine knowledge and interest in classical music regularly listen to Classic FM; instead they will mostly listen to Radio 3. Classic FM is really for those who quite like the sound of classical music, largely as background music, but don’t want anything difficult or challenging (and there is nothing wrong with that kind of middle-brow interest). However, it seems Radio 3 wants to ape quite a lot of what Classic FM does.

  • Geraldine says:

    Not at all. Classic FM is the best Programme on air from the music to the presenters. They are informative, intelligent and know their topic extremely well. I listen most of the time and have learnt a great deal over the years anout the music and even more about the composers, that I did not previously know. The Lark Ascending probably came out on top this year due to the number of new listeners who came on board during lockdown, young and old. It is a beautiful piece of music but so are many more played on this popular station.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Even if a “classical” radio station is and wants to be mostly valued as musical wallpaper, there is so much music out there even in the wallpaper category that there really is no excuse for a tight playlist that I can think of.

    I wager you could announce The Lark Ascending but actually play Reger’s “Hermit Playing the Violin” from the Four Böcklin tone poems and few would be any the wiser, and they’d be just as happy. I knew some jobbing musicians who’d get requests from the bride for this or that warhorse “classical” piece — they’d play what they wanted and nobody complained. Their goal is to avoid the death of brain cells that endless repetition each Saturday can create. Promise the Taco Bell Cannon but play the slow movement from Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C instead. Who knows? Who cares?

    So what I propose is to use the same TITLES of music but then actually play other stuff — other Vivaldi or Locatelli violin concertos but announce them as this or that “season” from the Four Seasons, and so on. The list of easily substituted pieces is nearly endless. This would make everyone happy, or rather, it would make fewer people unhappy.

  • Miranda Green says:

    They play a very limited choice of music and not always the best recordings. Also, too many repeats of the same thing. Do they play string quartets? I’m not sure I’ve heard one. And why not the whole piece – just one movement.

  • Dragonetti says:

    Classic fm is a commercial station and therefore has to attract an audience that will be relevant to its advertisers.
    It’s not their job to challenge but to keep the customers happy.
    I find it perfectly acceptable around the house or in the car as long as I am within one second’s reach of a mute button. Adverts…off; Einaudi…off; Karl Jenkins..etc, etc.
    Sorry to say though that my erstwhile morning refuge of BBC R3 is now trying my patience in a different way. I like the presenters in spite of the opinions of many here but the ‘woke’ agenda is getting out of control. Between about 8:30 and 10 this morning alone I had to hit the mute button probably as many times as I would have on Classic.
    I think the only solution is going to be to read a newspaper and listen to a CD!

  • Alexander T says:

    Some of their presenters can’t even tell the difference between an oboe and a clarinet.

  • fflambeau says:

    This is SO true. Most of these stations have gatekeepers who keep out music even if requested because either they did not study it in school and feel it is not “approved.”

    I’m proud to say that listener supported Wisconsin public radio, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, is an exception and does play listener requested music. Anyone can listen to them wherever in the world. See www.