Friday, 7 September 2012

BBC Proms 2012- Looking Back

"It's not a timpani orchestra, dear" said a lady at a Prom some years ago. "It's a symphony orchestra". A line to cherish!  I loved that couple. Whenever I come across pseuds and snobs, I think of "timpani orchestras" and it restores my faith in the value of music.

Tonight is effectively the real Last Night of the Proms. Tomorrow night is party time! But tonight, Bernard Haitink and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra wind up the musical side of things with Hadyn and Strauss.

Everyone's got highs and lows. For me the best Prom was the last, the superlative Bernard Haitink/ Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Haydn Richard Strauss Eine Alpensinfonie (more HERE)  Also outstanding, Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Mendelssohn and Messaien/Mahler and Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker Ligeti/Wagner/ Sibelius. Also loved Andris Nelson's CBSO Shostakovich (didn't review)  and Martyn Brabbins Howells Hymnus Paradisi. Some seriously awful Proms. It's wrong, I think, to dislike a Prom because you don't like the composer. I hadn't heard Bernstein's Mass in 10 years but listened anyway. I'd forgotten how mesmerizingly awful it is. Perhaps it will serve as an inoculation.

This year there's been much less "serious" music and much more feel-good filler. Top seller was the Wallace and Gromit Prom. Politically it's correct that the Proms should be all inclusive, but artistically that kills the very spirit of the Proms, which is classical music. Are the BBC that desperate?  Hopefully, they'll find ways to limit the percentage of money spinning filler and increase serious classical music. A few years ago there was a Michael Ball Prom (popular crooner).  His fans loved and sneereed at the rest of the Proms. If you run a business, you lose it if you change the product.  If the BBC wants to grab a share of the West End market, the West End will fight back. Then what, if classical music lovers have been driven away?

BBC Proms organizers have plans for years in advance but like any good business they probably have the next 5 years sorted. But there's still time to change trends.

On a more domestic front, a Big Thank You to whoever told the door staff to let people in much earlier than usual. It makes complete sense, raises bar sales, shortens the queues for the toilets and makes things altogether more civilized. This year they even clamped down on latecomers, because latecomers disrupt things for other people. Hooray !

The BBC got flak during the Jubilee for bad presenting, but there's really very little anyone can talk about while small boats float slowly up a river for hours on end. The Proms however, are intrinsically more highbrow. Presenting is more difficult to do than it seems, because your mouth has to function independently of your brain. But it helps a lot if the brain is basically in the right place. This year we've been spared the worst excesses, and the female presenters are generally reliable. But then one of them starts to praise the idiot who disrupted the magical Mendelssohn Prom, and cheer the guy with flag-painted giant hands? Such things are fine for the Last Night of the Proms, but not otherwise. If the BBC is serious about serious music, they shouldn't be encouraging that sort of thing.


Dodorock said...

Closing doors to latecomers? I have been at least once disturbed in one the best concerts I thought to have attended by someone who irrupted in the middle of a much loved work (in an unexpected attire) in Bucharest. Maybe Grimes appearing like that in Aunties pub is not ideal to concentrate on "definitive music". But sometimes you are not so priviledged to be very early and you can get late eg if you rely on unreliable transport. I thought that remark has its point but I think it is formulated in a harsh way for those who are not priviledged enough to have regular access to concerts.

Doundou Tchil said...

Last year latecomers were let in at any time, even during the middle of arias. In and out all the time. They didn't even try to be quiet, disrupted other listeners and even upset the performers. Genuine late is OK but they can wait til the interval. In the lobby there is widescreen TV so they can hear and watch the performance. But some people just don't care.