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David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy

Sat Jul 27, 8.10-9.10pm, BBC2

Episode two
In the second episode of this somewhat dry documentary series, Starkey focuses on the music of the seventeenth century; a period, the historian explains, when British music was more influenced by the monarchy than at any other time.

The bolstering up then paring down of chamber and chapel music was a reflection of the ongoing battle between ostentatious Catholicism and ascetic Protestantism. By the end of this era the latter won out, putting one of the greatest British composers – Henry Purcell – out of a job at court, and pushing him towards the theatre (interesting fact: The Who’s Pete Townsend cited Purcell as one of the band’s influences). Only classical music aficionados will recognise most of the composers’ names and even brainbox Starkey admits he’s never heard of William Lawes.

While it’s perfectly conceivable to watch a programme about a subject you know nothing about and enjoy it, this is not such an occasion. Unless Baroque music appeals, you may be reminded of the yawn-inducing docs shown by supply teachers at school. That said, next week is about the emergence of Italian opera in Britain, so expect more of a musical romp.