BBC Radio 3’s new schedule plus new classical music programmes for TV


New presenters, specialist content moved later in the day, and a return for former Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night

For the latest programme information about forthcoming broadcasts go to the bottom of this post.

The BBC has announced a new schedule of programmes for its classical music radio station Radio 3, described by station boss Sam Jackson as ‘ambitious and distinctive’.  

The announcement also includes a collection of new programming for BBC Television, the work of former Radio 3 presenter now commissioning editor Suzy Klein. A three-part series about Mozart, a TV production of Britten’s Curlew River shot in Suffolk, and Arena specials about Maria Callas and ballet dancer Steven McRae feature, plus orchestral performances from festivals and competitions on BBC Four.

The Radio 3 schedule changes see some specialist discussion programmes (The Verb and Free Thinking) moved over to Radio 4, with music journalism and specialist genres shifted to later in the day at weekends.

Clemency Burton-Hill returns to the network. There’s new programming from Clive Myrie and Jools Holland. And, Radio 3 salvages Radio 2’s iconic ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’ spotlighting light and film music performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra every Friday evening.  

Live performance is billed to feature every day in an afternoon slot broadcast from the BBC’s studios in Salford, utilising the BBC’s UK orchestras plus recorded performances from European Broadcasting Union partners.  

Radio 3’s music journalism programme Music Matters remains intact with a series of one-offs with leading commentators. Richard Morrison from the Times leads the charge with a spotlight on music education.  Clemency Burton-Hill makes a welcome return to the station with an exclusive interview with Daniel Barenboim marking 25 years of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.  

Clive Myrie presents Music from the Front Line on Radio 3

Journalist, jazzer and Mastermind presenter Clive Myrie reflects on the classical music that has comforted him and his journalist colleagues in ‘Music from the Front Line’.

Myrie’s Proms TV presenting appearance last year saw him dismiss any passionate detailed discussion about the genre as ‘boring and naff’ on social media. Its safe to assume that his contributors John Suchet, John Simpson, Christina Lamb and Matt Frei won’t be saying the same.  

Tom Service heads up the weekend with an extended Saturday morning breakfast programme. There’s an additional 30 minutes from Twitcher and Sheffield Chamber Music Festival stage-hand Tom McKinney on Sunday breakfast.  

Record Review moves to 2pm on Saturdays

Radio 3’s Record Review moves later on a Saturday, to 2pm. Jools Holland presents a nattily titled ‘Earlier with … ‘ series on Saturday lunchtimes. Violinist and Edinburgh Festival Artistic Director Nicola Benedetti gets her own series too.  

This is the first significant shake-up of the schedule since former Universal Music Exec and Classic FM Director Sam Jackson took on the Radio 3 controllership from outgoing chief Alan Davey.  

There’s a significant shift away from speech radio with The Verb and Free Thinking moving over to Radio 4, signalling that these changes aren’t simply about keeping things fresh and interesting, but also about making Radio 3 a simpler marketing offer.  

Afficiandos will seek out broadcasts like Record Review even on demand. Shifting such key moments later in the schedule isn’t such a big risk. Key fixtures like the Wigmore Hall Live Monday concert and Choral Evensong remain resolutely in place. Good show.  

Don’t frighten the horses

From a corporate perspective, this schedule ‘refresh’ announcement is part of a sequence of steps taken by the BBC which can be seen as an attempt to rebuild both audiences and trust.

After the disastrous launch of the BBC’s 2022 Classical Music strategy in which the BBC Singers were to be binned along with 20% of orchestral musicians in England, the BBC’s long-anticipated U-turn the Corporation’s 100-year-old choir (thanks to a partnership with VOCES8 Foundation). Talks are ongoing between the Musicians Union and BBC about their orchestral players.  This schedule announcement should go some way to reassure both audience and industry that wholesale revolution fuelled by indifference isn’t the order of the day after all. Fingers crossed. 

The recent digital add-on services – dedicated playlist presenter-less branded stations – are an attempt to invite people in who wouldn’t otherwise consider a BBC radio station. Not something for the core audience so much as the curious. The BBC needs that to line itself up for the potential (or likelihood) of a future subscription service. On paper it works. But its not an easy path by any means. 

The delicate balance in presenting classical music radio

In this schedule refresh, Controller Sam Jackson treads a fine line. Change is understandable for the core audience so long as we’re not left feeling like we’re the problem and sidelined as a result. And for the core audience to feel (still) welcomed that will come down to a delicate balancing act.  

First, the music played. Radio 3 has historically always aided discovery. There are always surprises to be found on the network that excite and fascinate. That ethos needs to remain. 

Second, and perhaps most challenging, presenters need to link in a way that builds on discovery. If they can’t add, then they’d better not distract with something banal. That’s more difficult for some. 

Successful presentation will be done by more experienced broadcasters who recognise the need to leave their egos at the studio doors and wear their knowledge lightly.  

With the ever-reliable avuncular Petroc Trelawny presiding over weekday Breakfast with his trademark assertive mix of authority, enthusiasm, and sincerity, followed by the popular Georgia Mann with a morning of Essential Classics, weekday mornings are safe on Radio 3.  

Afternoons haven’t necessarily changed in terms of music, though the presentation may be at risk of pushing some away. In Tune remains the same with stalwarts Sean Rafferty and Katie Derham.  

On the face of it then, nothing to frighten the horses.  Let’s hope those horses aren’t too flighty.  

Whats on BBC Radio 3 from April 2024?

06:30 – 09:00
Saturday Breakfast with Elizabeth Alker (extended by 30 mins)

09:00- 12:00
Saturday Morning with Tom Service

12:00 -13:00
Earlier…with Jools Holland

13:00 – 14:00
Music Matters including Clemency Burton-Hill on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at 25; Richard Morrison’s The Land Without Music?, Clive Myrie’s Music on the Frontline and Nicola Benedetti’s focus on the history and impact of the Edinburgh International Festival

14:00 – 16:00
Record Review with Andrew McGregor (replaces Inside Music and moves from Saturday morning)

16:00 – 17:00
Sound of Cinema/Sound of Gaming (moves an hour later)

17:00 – 18:00
This Classical Life with Jess Gillam (replaces J to Z; moves later)

18:00 – 21:30
Opera on 3 (moves 30 mins earlier)

21:30 – 22:30
Music Planet (moves from Saturday afternoon)

22:30 – 00:30
New Music Show (moves 30 mins later)

00:30 – 06:30
Through The Night (30 mins earlier on weekends)

06:30 – 09:00
Sunday Breakfast with Tom McKinney (extended by 30 mins)

09:00 – 12:00
Sunday Morning with Sarah Walker

Private Passions with Michael Berkeley (extended by 30 mins)

Sunday Afternoon programme with Sara Mohr-Pietsch

Choral Evensong (repeat)

Jazz Record Requests with Alyn Shipton

17:00 -18:00
The Early Music Show with Hannah French (later start time)

18: 00-19:15
Words and Music (later start time)

Sunday Feature / Between the Ears (later start time)

Drama on 3 (later start time)

Night Tracks (introduced to Sunday night)

Unclassified with Elizabeth Alker (moves from Thursday night)

Monday – Friday
Through the Night

Radio 3 Breakfast with Petroc Trelawny (extended by 30 mins)

Essential Classics with Georgia Mann (extended by 30 mins)

Classical Live (Mon-Fri)/ Live from Wigmore Hall (13:00 -14:00 on Mondays)/Choral Evensong (Wednesdays, 15:00 – 16:00 – moves an hour earlier)

Composer of the Week with Donald Macleod and Kate Molleson (moves from 12:00)

In Tune with Sean Rafferty and Katie Derham

The Classical Mixtape

Radio 3 In Concert

The Essay (Mon – Friearlier start)

Night Tracks (Mon -Thu,starts 30 mins earlier

Round Midnight with Soweto Kinch

Friday evening schedule
Friday Night is Music Night

The Essay

Late Junction (earlier start and shortened by 30 minutes)

Round Midnight with Soweto Kinch

What’s on BBC Radio 3 from Sunday 31 March

Sunday 31 March
Private Passions: Lord John Krebs
12:00 – 13:00

Lord John Krebs is a zoologist who has specialised in the behaviour of birds. Although he was the son of a Nobel prize-winning chemist, ornithology was a very early passion: he hand-reared birds as a child and allowed them to fly freely around at family mealtimes.

In his later research, he discovered that birds that store seeds for the winter have remarkable spatial memory and an enlarged hippocampus – the part of the brain essential for remembering.

Alongside his academic career, he’s taken on high-profile public roles: he was the first chairman of the Food Standards Agency, where he faced the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

His musical choices include Haydn, Schubert, Schumann and Corelli.


Choral Evensong: Live from Canterbury Cathedral
15:00 – 16:00

Choral Evensong is live from Canterbury Cathedral on Easter Day.

Introit: Jesus Christ is risen today (C.V. Stanford)
Responses: Smith
Office hymn: All praise to Christ, our Lord and king divine (Engelberg)
Psalm: 66 vv.1-11 (C.V. Stanford)
First Lesson: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Canticles: Stanford in A
Second Lesson: Luke 24:13-35
Anthem: Ye choirs of New Jerusalem (C.V. Stanford)
Hymn: Thine be the glory (Maccabaeus)
Voluntary: Postlude in D minor, Op. 105, No. 6 (C.V. Stanford)

David Newsholme (Director of Music)
Jamie Rogers (Assistant Director of Music)


Drama on 3: When We Dead Awaken
19:30 – 20:35

Drama on 3 presents a new production of Henrik Ibsen’s last play, adapted for radio by Ian McDiarmid from the translation by Michael Meyer.

In the plot, Arnold Rubek, a celebrated sculptor, returns to Norway with his disillusioned wife– only to bump into Irena, the woman who inspired his masterpiece, Resurrection Day.

Rubek ….. Ian McDiarmid
Irena ….. Stella Gonet
Maja ….. Melody Grove
Ulfheim ….. Sandy Grierson
Manager ….. John Dougall

Introduction by Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr
Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane

Monday 1 – Friday 5 April
Composer of the Week: Mozart’s Grand Tour

16:00 – 17:00

When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was just seven years old, he and his family set out on an epic journey. Their goal: to travel through Europe and become famous, bringing their awesomely talented children to concert halls, homes and royal palaces across Germany, Belgium, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland. This week, Donald Macleod accompanies the Mozart family on their musical marathon and invites listeners to follow their many scrapes and adventures.

Monday 1 April: Setting Out

Today, the Mozarts wave goodbye to their neighbours in Salzburg and head north. Their savings will only sustain them a few months and they’ll have to learn how to earn as they go if they want to reach Paris.

Tuesday 2 April: A rocky road to Paris

The Mozarts’ plans to enthral wealthy royals in Mainz and Bonn are scuppered when they arrive to discover the princes are either absent or ill.

Wednesday 3 April: Mixed fortunes in London

In a change to their plans, the Mozarts divert to London, lured by the promise of large profits to be made in Europe’s wealthiest capital.

Thursday 4 April: Encounters with scientists and doctors

The boy Mozart is tested by a scientist of the Royal Society in London and the family is struck by a sudden and desperate crisis. Is their wonderful tour destined to end in tragedy?

Friday 5 April: Homeward Bound

It’s time to head home. But how? The Mozart family are currently stranded in The Hague, with vital luggage abandoned in Paris. It’s going to be a long and winding road back to Salzburg and the family are determined to make the most of every new sight and experience along the way.


The Essay: Erland Cooper’s Phantom Islands

21:45 – 22:00

Orkney-born composer Erland Cooper presents a late- night voyage of the imagination around the Atlantic in search of mythical Islands – with music he’s created for each episode, recorded at Erland’s Studio Orphir with Freya Goldmark (violin), Klara Schumann (cello), Lottie Greenhow (soprano) and Josephine Stephenson (soprano). All readings are by Keeley Forsyth.

Monday 1 April: Hildaland

Orcadian historian and storyteller Tom Muir is the guide to the myth and magic of Hildaland, one of Orkney’s vanishing islands and the summer home of the Finfolk.

Tuesday 2 April: The Isle of Demons

The Isle of Demons – or Île des Démons – was believed to be located at the top of the Straits of Belle Isle which divides Newfoundland and Labrador. It first appeared in 1508 on Johannes Ruysch’s world map. It also appeared on other leading cartographers’ maps including Gérard Mercator’s 1569 world map; Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s map of New England and New France in 1556; and Abraham Ortelius’ 1569 map. The phantom island gained notoriety when French noblewoman Marguerite de La Rocque de Roberval claimed to have been abandoned there by her uncle in 1542.

Erland explores this ghostly phantom isle with Ed English, who comes from a seafaring family and owns the Quirpon island lighthouse and adjacent Lighthouse Inn.

Wednesday 3 April: The Auroras

To explore the Aurora Islands in the South Atlantic, Erland is joined by Chilean historian Natalia Gándara Chacana, an expert on the scientific and cultural history of Latin America in the colonial and early republican period.

The Auroras take their name from a Peruvian ship which reported a group of three Islands in 1762 whilst on a voyage from Lima to Cádiz, midway between the Falkland islands and South Georgia. In a region where colonial powers were competing for control of the seas, islands held a particular importance and the Auroras had great geostrategic value. They were dismissed as non-existent by the British admiralty in 1825 but they continued to be sighted and appeared on maps until the 1870s.

Thursday 4 April: Frisland

In 1558, the Venetian senator Nicolò Zeno published a text in which the writer claims that as a child he discovered letters and a map from his ancestors who travelled north to Frisland, described as an island larger than Ireland. There, Nicolò’s ancestors told about their encounter with Prince Zichmni – later suggested to be the Earl of Orkney – who had recently defeated the King of Norway.

Joining Erland on this imaginary journey to Frisland is Liz Horodowich, Professor of History at New Mexico State University. She also points to some of the personal and political reasons for the publication of Zen’s text.

Friday 5 April: Saint Brendan’s Isle

Saint Brendan was an Irish abbot born in the 5th century, known for travelling long distances to found monasteries. Several centuries after his death, a Latin text – Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis – appeared which told the story of his extraordinary seven-year voyage across the seas, which culminated in his arrival on the Land of Promise. Painting the picture of this heavenly island is Sebastian Sobecki, Professor of Later Medieval English Literature at the University of Toronto.


Round Midnight

23:30 – 00:30

This week marks the first instalment of ’Round Midnight, the new Radio 3 weekday evening jazz programme presented by British saxophonist Soweto Kinch and showcasing the very best jazz, with a particular focus on the UK scene.  

On Fridays, ’Round Midnight will be the home of in-depth live sessions, guest mixtapes, and musical conversations. This week, British singer Zara McFarlane is live in the studio, interpreting Sara Vaughan classics to mark the centenary of her birth. 

Monday 1 April

Radio 3 in Concert: BBC Philharmonic – Also sprach Zarathustra

19:30 – 21:45

Presented by Elizabeth Alker and recorded at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall in March, the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Leslie Suganandarajah perform Richard Strauss’s visionary Also sprach Zarathustra and Mozart’s intensely dramatic Symphony No. 25.  Norwegian star Eldbjørg Hemsing joins the orchestra for a performance of one of the best-loved of all violin concertos: Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1.

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 (K 183)
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1
Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra

Eldbjørg Hemsing (violin)
BBC Philharmonic
Leslie Suganandarajah (conductor)

Wednesday 3 April

Radio 3 in Concert: Dvořák, Liszt, Kanai, and Takemitsu

19:30 – 21:45

Presented by Verity Sharp and recorded at Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall in February, Nodoko Okisawa makes her debut conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for a programme which brings together Japan and Eastern Europe. Iyad Sughayer joins the Orchestra for Liszt’s poetic Second Piano concerto.

Takemitsu: Three Film Scores
Kanai: Capriccio Okinawa
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125
Dvořák: The Wood Dove, B198

Iyad Sughayer (piano)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Nodoka Okisawa (conductor)

Friday 5 April

Friday Night is Music Night

19:30 – 21:45

Katie Derham presents the Radio 3 debut of the popular BBC radio programme that promises an eclectic mix of light music from Europe and America, alongside classical favourites, operetta, music for theatre, and a range of film and TV scores, both popular and rarely-heard. Recorded in March at London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre, chief conductor Anna-Maria Helsing conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra – the ensemble that has been the backbone of the programme for over 70 years – with special guests violinist Aleksey Semenenko and celebrity tenor Wynne Evans.

Coates: The Merrymakers
Novello: My Life Belongs To You
Sibelius: Spring Song
Tchaikovsky: Sérénade Mélancolique
Judith Weir: Brighter Visions Shine Afar
Cahn/Brodszky: Be My Love
Peter Hope: The Ring of Kerry Suite
Elmer Bernstein: The Magnificent Seven Theme
Leroy Anderson: Bugler’s Holiday
Kreisler: Caprice Viennois
Trad Welsh arr. Jewson: Suo Gân
Jocelyn Pook: Wonderland
Sarasate: Introduction and Tarantella
Lehar: You Are My Heart’s Delight
Puccini: Nessun Dorma
Glinka: Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture

Wynne Evan (tenor)
Aleksey Semenenko (violin)
BBC Concert Orchestra
Anna-Maria Helsing (conductor)

What’s on BBC Radio 3 from Saturday 6 April

Saturday 06 April

Saturday Morning

09:00 – 11:00

Superstar pianist Lang Lang is Tom Service’s first guest, and he plays exclusively for Saturday Morning. As well as a fantastic classical music playlist, there will be news reports and short features including a new bite-size feature where Tom and guests unpack the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask. This week, Tom asks why music gives us goosebumps.

Earlier with Jools Holland

12:00 – 13:00

In a brand new show for Saturday lunchtimes, Jools shares his lifelong passion for classical music, and the beautiful connections with jazz and blues. With fascinating guests each week, who bring their own favourite music and occasionally perform live in Jools’ studio.

Today’s studio guest is the violinist and composer Anna Phoebe, who introduces music she loves by Britten, Elgar and Meredith Monk.


Music Matters: The Land Without Music?

13:00 – 14:00

Music journalist Richard Morrison begins his six-part series exploring the state of classical music in the UK by starting with the Coronation of King Charles III in May 2023.

Both in the lead-up to the coronation, and the ceremony itself, King Charles oversaw a sumptuous showcase of British music. Richard Morrison asks what the carefully-programmed coronation music tells us about both the identity and the state of British music now, and particularly in a post-pandemic climate, played out against the Cost of Living Crisis and cries for financial help from all corners of the music industry. With music from Purcell to Judith Weir and Paul Mealor.

Sunday 07 April

Sunday Feature: The Golden Age of the  MGM Musical

19:15 – 20:00

Musician and broadcaster Neil Brand charts the rise and fall of the MGM Musical. He celebrates the golden years of lavish movie musical production from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s.

MGM set the gold standard of music and dance excellence under the leadership of Louis B. Mayer and the legendary Arthur Freed. Freed’s music unit employed the top musicians of the time, many of whom had fled war-torn Europe amidst rising antisemitism. With archive and original interviews including Alicia Mayer and John Wilson, this Sunday Feature celebrates this extraordinary period in film history.

Monday 08 April

Classical Live: Nicolas Altstaedt Live at Wigmore Hall and Stravinsky in Paris

13:00 – 16:00

Broadcasting every day this week from Radio France Broadcasting House, just round the corner from the Eiffel Tower, Classical Live will air a major work recorded at a series of concerts from last year in two great European capital cities: Paris and Belfast.

Today, Stravinsky’s brutal ballet The Rite of Spring takes centre stage at 3pm. There will also be  performances from three concerts at this year’s Belfast Music Society International Festival of Chamber Music, all given by former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists. Today, soprano Ailish, and pianist James Baillieu transport us from Belfast to Venice with Reynaldo Hahn’s Songs in a Venetian Dialect.


Radio 3 in Concert: Celebrating Judith Weir

19:30 – 21:45

In her 70th birthday year, Judith Weir’s colourful Missa del Cid is the crowning work of this BBC Singers’ concert, a piece which brings to life the dramatic world of the legendary warlord Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, re-named by Hollywood as El Cid.

There’s also the music of Pérotin, alongside choral works by Renaissance Spanish giants, Victoria and Guerrero. Plus gems by Weir’s fellow Scots composers, Sir James Macmillan and Electra Perivolaris.

Recorded earlier this month at Kings Place and presented by Ian Skelly.

The BBC Singers

Conducted by Owain Park


Round Midnight

23:30 – 00:30

This week the new BBC Radio 3 weekday evening jazz programme ‘Round Midnight continues. Presented by British saxophonist Soweto Kinch, it will showcase the very best jazz, with a particular focus on the UK scene.

On Monday to Thursday, Radio 3 New Generation Artist and Mercury Prize nominee Fergus McCreadie will be Soweto’s guest – selecting a piece of music that has shaped his journey.

Friday 12 April

Friday Night is Music Night

19:30 – 22:45

Singers Louise Dearman and Graham Bickley join conductor Richard Balcombe and the BBC Concert Orchestra in a mix of music celebrating the great outdoors. This includes the theme for The Big Country, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Fly Me to the Moon, and Somewhere over the Rainbow.

Recorded at Alexandra Palace Theatre, London. 

Presented by Petroc Trelawny.