CHARLES GRAHAM - TV’s allergy to proper talent

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LAST weekend saw the climax of the BBC Young Musician of the Year.

You’d be forgiven for not noticing it: it received scant publicity on screen or in print and, up to the final, was buried on BBC4.

Needless to say the standard of play throughout was quite astonishing. Performances of some of the most virtuosic and emotionally challenging music ever written come as a given in a contest which, since the late ’70s, has been a career springboard for some of Britain’s most gifted instrumentalists.

In fact a mate of mine, Wigan-born expert piano teacher John Byrne, had two pupils in this year’s keyboard final. And Standish’s now internationally-acclaimed concert pianist and accompanist Nicholas Rimmer reached the same stage 12 years ago.

I’m not going to bang the drum (or should that be timpani) for classical music. But I can’t let this celebration of sheer graft and exceptional skill go by without remarking with some sadness on how underplayed, and no doubt underviewed, it was compared with Britain’s Got Talent.

This tedious carnival freak show and celebration of mediocrity is one of this country’s biggest ratings winners.

I won’t decry everyone who enters because clearly it does showcase some half-decent talent - Standish schoolgirl Ellen Gallagher’s group were tipped by Simon Cowell to go far, for instance. But in general there is surprisingly little excellence in a contest entered by thousands yet won by a two-a-penny prancing dog sideshow attraction.

So there we have it: on one channel we’ve got a teen sensation giving a stunning performance of Walton’s Cello Concerto while on the other there’s a bloke clad floating pointlessly around the stage in silver foil and another with a saucepan on his head doing Dalek impressions.

“Give the public what it wants,” goes the old mantra and the viewing figures suggest that is what Cowell is doing. But that 10 times more folk watch BGT nonentities than musical genius is depressing indeed.