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Howard Goodall’s Story of Music

Sat Feb 2, 9.30-10.30pm, BBC2

Series one, episode two
The modern violin, the piano, the symphony, the soloist, equal temperament, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi: the century from 1650 to 1750 effectively saw the creation of what we understand today as Western classical music. Covering this in an hour was never going to be easy, and you can sense Goodall champing at the bit to lay the full import of this explosion of harmonic invention on us cloth-eared twits.

Unfortunately, his ‘Story of Music’ often slips into a kind of faux-naif simplemindedness, as ‘popularised’ by Alex James in his god-awful ‘A to Z of Classic FM Music’. So JS Bach is described as a ‘brainbox’ while some of his choicer fugues are teased out on a keyboard on a setting surely called ‘Blake’s 7’, which even a prole like me knows is underselling him slightly. So what? you ask. Well, exactly. All music is ill served by TV, but instrumental classical music gets a particularly raw deal, and this could have been a lot more ballsy.