New research on the Diverse Composers scheme run by Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) unearths neglected orchestral and string quartet repertoire by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Margaret Bonds, and Ali Osman

BBC Radio 3 Afternoon Concert: Celebrating Diversity in Classical Music

Wednesday 2 February at 2pm and BBC Sounds

  • Live from MediaCity Salford, the BBC Philharmonic perform UK premieres of three orchestral works by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Margaret Bonds, and Ali Osman;
  • The live performance on Afternoon Concert is the result of BBC Radio 3 and AHRC’s collaboration to fund academic research into historical classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds;
  • The programme also includes solo piano works by Nathaniel Dett, Kikuko Kanai, and Julia Perry, performed by Clare Hammond;
  • Students from the Royal Northern College of Music present two rare string quartets by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges;
  • BBC Radio 3 New Thinking podcasts feature discussions with the academic researchers who have been unearthing the forgotten works.

Introduced by Tom McKinney and Linton Stephens, the live performance on Afternoon Concert presents the results of a year-long collaboration between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Launched in Autumn 2020 with a call out for expressions of interest from academic researchers, the scheme aims to expand the breadth and diversity of what is accepted as belonging to the classical music canon, recognising and celebrating Black, Asian and ethnically diverse composers across the centuries. The seven researchers who were awarded funding in Spring 2021 are currently unearthing pieces of music that have been rarely performed, and at times are not commercially available as recordings.

The upcoming Afternoon Concert presents the first results of the BBC Radio 3 and AHRC collaboration, with a further concert scheduled to be broadcast in Autumn 2022. Besides the orchestral premieres, the programme includes works for solo piano by Nathaniel Dett, Kikuko Kanai, and Julia Perry, – played by Clare Hammond – as well as pre-recorded string quartets by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, presented by students of the Royal Northern College of Music.

Complementing the concert, two BBC Radio 3 Arts & Ideas podcasts hosted by New Generation Thinker Christienna Fryar feature discussions with the seven researchers who have been awarded funding as part of the AHRC collaboration, each one giving an insight into the lives of the composers they are focusing on and the music they are unearthing. Diverse Composers forms part of a longstanding collaboration between BBC Radio 3 and AHRC, previous examples of which include the Forgotten Female Composers scheme which showcased the work of five female composers who have been largely left out of musical history.

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 Controller, says: “BBC Radio 3 is all about expanding the classical canon through new commissions and unearthing those from the past that might forever be lost without a platform for audiences to discover them. We’re grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for supporting us and enabling us to take steps to ensure that unfairly forgotten figures are welcomed again into the Western classical canon for future generations.”

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, says:These performances, made possible by the work of leading arts and humanities researchers in tandem with Radio 3’s reach and platform, make an important contribution to expanding the breadth and diversity of the classical music canon. AHRC is proud to help ensure that these sublime compositions will be heard for generations to come.”