Generated by machine? The BBC Proms 2016 season just announced might well have been designed by algorithm. Once,the Proms meant pizzazz. Now we get pizza, and not good pizza but a frozen, soggy machine product.
It's way too early to blame the new Proms Director, David Pickard, who's been in the job only a short time. The malaise has been setting in for some years: Roger Wright was right to get the h out. The Culture White Paper is symptomatic of the demented mindlessness that passes for arts policy. Report after report, written in the same comatose Watch with Mother style. Someone should draw a flow chart and identify the suits behind the system. They might all be the same! No, the arts aren't a substitute for an education system, nor a means of social engineering. In this Brave New World, we have soma, not sustenance.
On the First Night of the Proms, predictably, with the BBC SO, Sakari Oramo, Elgar, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Nothing wrong with that, but we can get that fare anytime, anywhere, even on Classic FM. All the right boxes have been ticked. Nice things there and popular performers, Dare we say it, but maybe the BBC has turned its back on its founding principles. Even the highlights, like the ROH Mussorgsky Boris Gudonov and Berlioz Romeo et Juliette (John Eliot Gardiner) are things serious listeners will have heard elsewhere. But maybe the BBC and the Proms have given up on serious music. Instead, we have the stranglehold of Ten Pieces, that moronic list of approved works drawn up as if by Stalinist diktat. It was good enough for a laugh for about ten seconds, but it's counter-productive. Read my piece on Ten Pieces Motherhood and Poisoned Apple Pie.
Although there are nice tidbits along the way, serious listeners might need to wait until Prom 45 on August 19th for Janáček The Makropulous Case when Jiří Bělohlávek brings his singers from Prague. His concerts with the BBC SO were milestones, bringing Czech repertoire into the mainstream. At Prom 68 on 4th September, Rossini Semiramide with Operas Rara, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment should be good. The Staatskapelle Berlin and the Dresden Staatskapelle (Barenboim and Thielemann) raise the game immensely. Despite some nice things, this is a Proms season that's afraid of its own shadow. The season seems to have been designed for the Last Night of the Proms market - not the loyalists having fun, but for the millions who tune in but don't otherwise worry too much about listening. Guess us dinosaurs who actually like music don't belong anymore.
See also Sir Henry Wood, radical : New Music at the Proms. An antidote to the formulaic corporate speak that seems to be suffocating the BBC