A major classical music season is on its way to the BBC

Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Image caption

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won BBC Young Musician 2016, will help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the competition

The greatest classical performances of the last 100 years will be celebrated as part of a major new BBC season.

A BBC Four series titled Our Classical Century will feature “masterworks old and new” and will aim to introduce new audiences to landmark musical moments.

BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics will support the series by highlighting 100 significant people, events and pieces of music throughout the year.

The series will culminate in the First Night of the 2019 Proms.

“In the classical music industry we have to respond to changing times with new ideas and new ways of connecting with and engaging the public,” Radio 3 controller Alan Davey said.

“Our aim will be to help people of all ages to begin a new relationship with classical music – or take their existing relationship even further – and make it a habit and passion for life.”

Speaking at the Association of British Orchestras conference in Cardiff, Davey also announced plans to expand and democratise the current repertoire of classical music broadcast by the corporation.

A special concert by the BBC Concert Orchestra on International Women’s Day (8 March) will resurrect five “forgotten” pieces by female composers.

They include a concert overture by Florence B Price, who was the first black woman in the US to be recognised as a symphonic composer.

  • Read more about the five composers

The BBC will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of its Young Musician of the Year competition with a special Prom featuring past contestants.

BBC Four will also broadcast a special documentary tracking the experiences of recent finalists and winners, including cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, pianist Martin James Bartlett and the competition’s ambassador, violinist Nicola Benedetti.

The 25 young musicians who make up the 2018 category finalists – across strings, woodwind, percussion, brass and keyboard – were also announced on Friday.

The category winners will all progress to the grand final, which will be held at Birmingham Symphony Hall later this year.

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