Hip Classical Music Show Jolts Swedish

The video shows a musician, clad in leather, performing fervently as a mob of teenage girls swoons and screams. But all is not what it seems. The star is playing a violin, not a guitar; the music is Brahms, not Pearl Jam.

And no, this is not MTV - it is ``Bach and Co.,'' a prime-time experiment on Swedish TV that tries to use the garish excess of music videos to kindle children's interest in classical music.

Not everyone is a fan. Producer Paul Wesenlund says he has faced ``bloodthirsty'' criticism from ``classical music police'' jolted out of their couches by his show. But he doesn't really care. Children and even some critics generally have responded well to his weekly 30-minute program.

The idea to make hip, fast-paced, well-edited videos of classical numbers was born last year at a conference of 500 music teachers. The teachers were worried that classical music faced extinction, thanks to rock-and-roll. They said students are bored by the typical hour-long videos of orchestra concerts, in which the most exciting shot may be a close-up of the oboe soloist.

Although it's unclear how the program has ranked in TV ratings, there have been plenty of personal testaments. And a main feature of the program, a call-in poll of the best classical videos, has gotten about 10,000 calls each episode, Mr. Wesenlund claims, compared with about 1,000 calls to a major radio pop chart..

Many teachers try to coordinate music education with the shows, and the Swedish channel has sent them booklets with additional information about the composers, Wesenlund says.

The videos are mixed with short comical presentations. One shows how to build a violin - in two minutes; another expounded on a report claiming that classical music adds to intelligence.

Some critics have been outraged by slight mistakes in facts and by mispronunciation, such as the way many Swedish overenunciate the ``ch'' in Bach. Wesenlund says of the inaccuracies: ``I don't get it. After all, this is about the music.''

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