Ned Sherrin (1986-2006)

Edward Seckerson (2007)

Paul Gambaccini (2008-)

Russell Davies (stand-in, 2014)


Ian Gillies - "Young Grove" (1986-2002)
David Kenrick and Stephen Follows - "Dr Köchel" (2003-)


BBC Radio 4, 14 July 1986 to present


A wide-ranging musical quiz, originally hosted by musical writer and raconteur Ned Sherrin, and subsequently run by musicals expert Edward Seckerson and the audio all-rounder Paul Gambaccini. The quiz splits into three movements (or rounds, as we'd more usually call them).

The first round, Moderato Questionable, gives a handful of questions to each contestant, with two illustrated by short musical pieces. Two points for a correct answer, the others may buzz in for one point if the answer is incorrect.

Should there be a tie at the end of this round, a further buzzer question (or questions) is asked to determine the order for the next round.

Theme and Variation forms the middle round. Four categories of questions are offered (the choice increased to five for the 2010 series). Some are very specific, such as "Beethoven's Piano Sonatas". Others are more general, for instance "Sunshine and rain". The person leading after the first round gets to pick from all of the categories, the runner-up chooses from the remainder, and the contestant in last place has a more limited choice. Each round consists of eight questions (seven from the 2011 series), including three musical cues, with two points for a correct answer; incorrect answers are not offered.

After all this has completed comes the final round, Questionable Accellorando. Here, there are about twenty questions, all on the buzzers. The first person to buzz may answer for a point; if they're wrong, they will lose a point, and there are no bonuses.

Though mostly about classical music, Counterpoint includes a significant proportion of questions about jazz, pop, and other forms of modern music. Traditionally, these non-classical questions were never answered correctly, but the number of panel-beaters has been declining in recent years.

The 2021 series replaced the fast-and-furious buzzer round with a minute of quickfire questions for each player in turn. Like on The Chase, "pass" is a wrong answer, all wrong answers are corrected by the host, and the round finishes as soon as the notes from "A Fifth of Beethoven" sound. This change was a contingency in case episodes had to be recorded with the contestants at home - in the event, only the first of five studio sessions took place.

Each edition features three contestants, and only the winner of each show progresses to the next round. The series is complete in 13 weeks, and has been running in Radio 4's Monday afternoon quiz slot since 1998.


1986: not known
1987: not known
1988: Andrew Rothwell
1989: not known
1990: not known
1992: Ian Sutton
1993: David Kenrick
1994: James Eccleson
1995: Geoff Thomas
1996: Peter French
1997: Richard Newbold
1998: not known
1999: David Hunt
2000: not known
2001: Andrew Rothwell
2002: not known
2003: not known
2004: Paul Steeples
2005: John Taylor
2006: Graham Holliday
2007: John Wrigley
2008: Brian Davies
2009: David Roy
2010: Andy Langley
2011: Anthony Dean
2012: Michael Pitwood
2013: Wilson Bain
2014: Stephen Whittaker
2015: Dan Adler
2016: Tim Adkin
2017: Richard Searle
2018: David Sherman
2019: Brian Thompson
2020-21: Steve Lodge
2022: Frankie Fanko
2023: Kathryn Johnson
2024: Annie Hodkinson

There was no series in 1991.

Can you help us to complete this list of musical brilliance? Drop a note in the Feedback Form below.


Edward Cole

Theme music

The name of that tune I'm sure you're all reaching for is - what else? - J.S. Bach's Prelude to Partita for Violin No.3 in E major, arranged and performed (with no violin!) by Jacques Loussier. Bach used the same tune in his prelude to the cantata Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir, and an arrangement more in keeping with that version was used as the theme for Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.


Ian Gillies' nickname of "Young Grove" came about from the popular musical reference work Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

The 2014 series was delayed from spring to autumn. Prior to the scheduled recording dates, host Paul Gambaccini was arrested for alleged historic sex crimes and released on police bail. The BBC's policy is that talent in this position do not appear on air. The replacement presenter was Russell Davies from Brain of Britain. While the series was on air, the case was discontinued, and Gambaccini returned to host the semi-finals.

Web links

BBC programme page


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