Classical Eurovision

The time for making your mind up is almost here. Who will be feeling euphoria and who will meet their Waterloo? As Europe braces itself for a weekend of Eurovision action, the UK’s classical audiences have already decided which country is their number one.

YouGov research commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra revealed the countries that rank top for classical music.

Whilst bearded lady Conchita Wurst may struggle to top the pop charts, the survey found that Austria is the country people most associate as the home of classical music. Almost a quarter of Brits perceive the land of Mozart, Schwarzenegger and schnitzel to be Europe’s classical number one. Germany and Italy came second and third respectively, whilst 1 in 12 Brits patriotically laud the UK’s classical credentials, placing it fourth in the list overall.

2/3 people based their decisions on the countries that have produced the great composers, however 27% of the poll cited factors such as which countries dedicated the most resources to the arts through festivals and active promotion.

David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia commented: “Britain fared well in the survey, probably better that we will do in Eurovision. In addition to revived interest in British composers, many respondents also based their decision on countries that put on the best festivals and did the most to promote the genre – such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International and Three Choirs festivals.”

The poll also indicated that many people defined the home of classical music in part by the composers who were born there. Works from the same country are frequently programmed together to offer audiences a concentrated experience of a country’s creative crop. The Philharmonia are no exception and, in the coming months, themed concerts will explore the musical sounds of France (22 May), Russia (12 June) and Finland (26 June).

The home of music: Eurovision vs. classical music

Here are the top five classical countries as voted for by the British public - and how they compare to their Eurovision standing:

1. Austria

Austria may be top of our classical chart, scoring 23% of the vote, but it has only ever won the Eurovision song contest once – back in 1966 with Merci, Cherie.

2. Germany

Second in our poll and home to Beethoven, Brahms and Bach, Germany certainly has a great musical pedigree. It has also been a Eurovision runner-up on 4 occasions (1980, 1981, 1985, and 1987) and has come up on top twice, most recently in 2010.

3. Italy

Bronze goes to the homeland of Rossini, Verdi and Vivaldi, who can also boast of 2 Eurovision triumphs and being runners-up to Sweden’s victorious 1974 act, ABBA.

4. United Kingdom

Coming in at a respectable fourth, the music of Elgar and Vaughan Williams (composer of the current Classic FM Hall of Fame number one The Lark Ascending) certainly seems to have left its mark on a large proportion of Brits. Here’s hoping this year’s Eurovision entry Molly Smitten-Downes can bring back the back the bacon (it is Denmark after all) and score the first UK success since 1997.

5. Russia

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, 1812 Overture and Piano Concerto No.1 are some of classical music’s most iconic works, the composer just one of a number of celebrated musicians – including Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Scriabin - heralding from Russia. Their Eurovision record is limited – they’ve only been participating since 1994 – but have already one once (in 2008) albeit with a little help from American producer Timbaland.

Sadly Turkey, the only nation to have presented a Eurovision entry which listed classical composers (Çetin Alp & The Short Waves’s ‘Opera’), failed to register as one of the homes of classical music in the poll.