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24 September 2014
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Bizet's The Pearl Fishers named nation's favourite tune

Bizet's The Pearl Fishers has been named the nation's favourite tune - topping the charts for nearly 20 years.

The tune, notably featured in the Mel Gibson movie Gallipoli, topped the votes in a poll for Radio 2's Your Hundred Best Tunes weekly Sunday evening show.

It has been the listeners' favourite every time the programme has held a poll since 1984.

Presenter Richard Baker counted down the top classical choices during the programme this evening (Sunday 12 October).

Highest new entry in the list is The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams which rockets in at number ten, despite failing to make the top 100 on the last three occasions.

And the most contemporary composer on the list is John Williams at 69 with his score for Schindler's List.

More than 10,000 votes were cast in the search to update the chart for Radio 2's popular show, which Baker took over earlier this year.

He replaced original presenter Alan Keith who died at the age of 94, just weeks before he planned to retire, after fronting the show since its inception in 1959.

Show producer Bridget Apps, who compiled the chart, said: "Voters using the Radio 2 website were invited to say why they liked the music - many said they wanted their choice to be played at their funeral, including one who wants to 'glide off' to the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana.

"The number one spot is still the Pearl Fisher Duet, and nearly every vote demands the classic Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill recording made in 1951.

"There have been few entries in the 2003 poll where the voter stipulates the recording they want to hear - apart that is from The Pearl Fishers Duet. It just has to be the Bjoerling and Merrill recording. I couldn't contemplate playing anything else."

She added: "Few people would have seen The Pearl Fishers as a complete opera and, to be fair, it doesn't have a string of opera hits like Carmen - but it does have this one sublime moment for two male voices.

"Although many listeners to the show tend to be in the older age range, the youngest voter was aged nine and listens with her whole family each in week in Leominster, Herefordshire.

"Many of our older listeners claim to have listened to the programme each week since 1959."

More than 1,000 titles were suggested by voters for the new chart, with new names including John Tavener, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman.

The list is updated at irregular intervals every few years.

Apps said of the winner: "I've tried over the years to find out more about the 1951 recording - but something always stops me.

"I don't want to break the dream that this supreme piece of singing wasn't a one take wonder.

"When I hear it I imagine that the red recording light just went on and these two singers stepped up to the mics and created a glorious piece of musical history."

The Top 10

Pearl Fishers Duet
Nimrod (Enigma Variations)
Nabucco, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
Violin Concerto No. 1
Clarinet Concerto
Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)
Piano Concerto No. 2
Intermezzo Cavalleria Rusticana
Lark Ascending
Vaughan Williams

Notes to Editors

Broadcaster Alan Keith OBE dies at 94 (18.03.03)

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.



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