BBC blanks Young Musician final

BBC blanks Young Musician final


norman lebrecht

May 03, 2021

The final of BBC Young Musician of 2020, recorded a while back in a Covid-empty hall, was shown last night at the same time as the national snooker final and the climax of a 7-part crime thriller, Line of Duty.

The final’s BBC4 audience will have been minuscule.

The winner was Chinese-born percussionist Fang Zhang, aged 17.




  • Chris says:

    The WORLD Snooker final!

  • Pam says:

    Bad timing, but quite obviously a much more satisfying watch than line of duty. The finalists were all fantastic – but Fang Zhang stood out as a compelling performer.

  • Chris Walsh says:

    These days the precise scheduling of a programme is largely irrelevant. People who want to watch Young Musician will have been able to record it, or will be able to catch up with it on iPlayer. Those (relatively few, I suspect) who felt the need to watch it in real time will have done so, recording the snooker or Line of Duty or whatever, according to taste. Bashing the BBC for having more than one audience magnet to broadcast at the same time is therefore rather futile.

  • Chris Isbell says:

    Why has it been “blanked”? It is available online.



  • V.Lind says:

    I watched Line of Duty. But, hey, I also watched episode 5 of viewpoint.

  • yujafan says:

    How typical of this blog to comment on the coverage, rather than the musicianship of the three excellent finalists. Each deserves support and constructive criticism as they seek to start their careers, which will hopefully be long and interesting. Sometimes I wonder just how interested in music NL actually is!

  • Music fan says:

    Classical music is a niche interest. The audience would have been “miniscule” regardless of what else was on. Them’s the facts.

    Besides, if someone wanted to watch more than one program, it could have easily been recorded. They do have DVR’s in the UK, don’t they?

    • microview says:

      Yes. And here we spell it ‘minuscule’, pronunciation regardless

      • Ashu says:

        [Yes. And here we spell it ‘minuscule’, pronunciation regardless]

        I often wonder what such miniscule souls would be doing if they’d been born into a culture with a phonetically spelled language. Shooting up shopping malls, perhaps.

    • pjl says:

      spelling is ‘minuscule’ from a type of print/font; nothing to do with mini-

  • christopher storey says:

    It wasn’t worth watching anyway, I’m afraid, with the winner a gimmick laden xylophone player

    • Daniel Webb says:

      Christopher, Christopher, Christopher…you’re talking about a 17-year-old musician. Is that your final public word on the matter? Three people liked your comment – you three approve of a nasty little swipe at a schoolboy too?

  • Nik says:

    How many people these days watch a TV programme at its scheduled time? Such a quaint and outdated concept.

    • Symphony musician says:

      About 1 in 5 of the whole UK population watched Line of Duty live, so to put Young Musician up against that on BBC1 and the snooker final on BBC2 was a poor choice of scheduling.

      • Nik says:

        They watched Line of Duty live because they wanted to know whodunnit before it was plastered all over the media headlines. (Though apparently Jed Mercurio is now trying to spin that he actually meant to imply that Boris Johnson was H. Yeah, I don’t get it either.)
        There was nothing stopping anyone from switching over to iPlayer at the end of it and watching young musician, or the following day.

  • Hugh Molloy says:

    Whilst it is true that many people now watch ‘on demand’ rather than according to the ‘scheduled’ time, the position in which programmes appear in the schedule does have an effect on audience numbers. There was a time when Musician of the Year was scheduled at prime-time on one of the two main BBC channels…. with plenty of publicity to entice viewers. It has certainly been ‘moved to the back-burner’ in recent years. The BBC continues to ‘entertain’, but rarely to ‘educate’.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    It’s well worth watching and gives us older classical music enthusiasts hope that succeeding generations will cherish and carry on the tradition.

    It was heartening to hear pieces of music a little (actually, a lot!) off the beaten track, chosen by the concerto finalists. Horn, oboe and percussion do, of course, have a much narrower range of concertos to choose from. I was expecting, for example, Annemarie Fedele to choose a Richard Strauss concerto, but Ruth Gipps’ piece was a colourful and rewarding alternative.

    I would echo the lead judge’s comment that, by this stage, all the finalists are winners. I’m sure they’re all destined for excellent careers should they choose to do so.

    I’d like to give a shout out to Coco Tomita whose violin playing in the semi-final blew me away. I cannot fathom how she didn’t make it to the final. I’m sure she, too, will go far!

    We may grumble about the BBC’s coverage of classical music on television, but this is still a great initiative, and long may it continue, and long may it inspire other youngsters to follow in the footsteps of Fang Zhang (and Ewan Millar and Thomas Luke – just to namecheck the remaining finalist and semi-finalist in this amazing group of talented young musicians!)

  • Graeme Hall says:

    I have to say that I watched it and regretted doing so – I would have been much better off with Channel 4’s highlights of the Portuguese Grand Prix. Not a vintage year musically, and dreadful presentation.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Thanks for revealing the winner – I recorded it and have yet to watch it!

    • Peter says:

      Just to pile on the spoilers: Tories won the last election, the Brexit vote was Leave, William of Normandy won, and Socrates was found guilty.

  • Stephen says:

    As others have said, scheduling means nothing nowadays. You watch a programme when you choose, not when the broadcaster does. Also, point of order, it was (and still is) the World Snooker Final, not the national one.

  • Stweart says:

    Three VERY talented youngsters but what a boring choose of music !
    Also some usual ,these days,
    gung-ho presenters telling us how exciting it all is.
    Glad I recorded it ! Thank heavens for a fast forward button.

  • Bored Muso says:

    Another typical example of dumbing down classical music at the beeb – prioritising snooker and a corrupt police drama over this competition speaks volumes of the disgraceful way our so called national TV network now regards anything they consider elitist. Despite the feeble attempts for the BBCYM format to be hip and happening and trying to tick all PC boxes as usual, the format came across as forced and depressing.
    Maybe it’s time the whole dreadfulness of this contrived and predicable competition was axed anyhow and BBC4 was relegated to become a BBC sports channel. Then the nation (in the eyes of those running this hapless institution ) would all be pleased and continue to become a totally culturally ignorant society. (isn’t this what our equally hapless Government want as well, as demonstrated towards their appalling lack of empathy and attitude during the pandemic towards the lives of musicians and the arts generally?)

    • Bostin'Symph says:

      It might be a sad thing to admit, but I’ve given up being upset about the paucity of the offering of the classical arts on the BBC. I turn to YouTube and the internet (through my TV and hi fi) and enjoy the superior output of Dutch, French and German television stations.

  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    In terms of concertante pieces for oboe or horn, it was good to hear something other than the expected Strauss or Mozart concertos. Although there are some pieces establishing themselves in the concert hall, the percussion repertoire could be said to be still in its infancy (I know that there are concertos by Creston and Milhaud going back some years), so hearing something that was new to me was good.

    In terms of coverage, it’s a shame that the BBC couldn’t have better trailed the competition around all its networks. When the arts are under such pressure at the moment, the more we can flag-wave for them, the better, in my opinion.

    As for the performers, who knows where they will go. They all have the talent. However, in the past, I’ve expected to see people thrive, and they’ve largely disappeared from view, while others that have seemed a unremarkable have blossomed into fine internationally-recognised artists.

  • Peter says:

    For what it is worth, i think all the semi-finalists were brilliant. I also enjoyed having so many unfamiliar works being performed, and to such a high standard. But i was turned off by the BBC coverage with endless continuity comments, and chatter between the hosts and the judges. Maybe some like this, but it felt like 50% of the programme was padding.

  • James Earlbridge says:

    I’ve watched BBC YM for many years now. Each edition appears to get more and more sanitised and anodyne in presentation and content. I have wondered though, how is it this excellent Marimba player was allowed to compete in this competition? I thought that one had to be a UK Citizen or Permanent Resident in order to participate? Clearly this talented boy who to my knowledge has only been in the UK for 2 years can’t have been cleared for citizenship yet? Or has the British tax-payer funded competition now open to all participants?

    The same question can be asked of the BBC New Generation Artists Scheme which again is tax payer funded and ought to be there to give talented British musicians a leg-up in the music industry and opportunities to perform on the best national stages. Now it seems to be a scheme which is open internationally with no transparency how the candidates are selected and often to candidates who have virtually no connection to Britain. There are so many extremely talented British-born musicians that given the right resources could thrive, contribute and build a truly valuable musical culture, but it seems that this is being put by the wayside in favour of a vapid internationalist approach which serves only those who already have a big profile and international connections.

    Investigate it Norman! Why do we have seem to have so little faith in our own domestic talent!?

  • M McAlpine says:

    I thought the BBC Young Musician was supposed to be finding British talent not importing it from abroad. Nothing against the young man banging the xylophone in that simply awful piece – I’m sure he was talented – but surely one has to be at least nominally British. Thought the music chosen by the finalists was particularly second rate and not worth listening to which was a shame but pleased we at least did have some genius from Mozart. The winner should have been the oboist imo.

  • Donna Pasquale says:

    Some people use iPlayer.