Sunday, November 06, 2005

The orchestra with the Möst broadcasts

BBC Radio 3 has discovered a new marketing gimmick - saturation scheduling. We've already had saturation scheduling of Beethoven, we can look forward at Christmas to saturation scheduling of J.S.Bach, and this week we have, wait for it, saturation scheduling of Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Yes, the conductor and orchestra that brought us this year's ridiculously ambitious, and very poorly reviewed, Proms performances of the Missa Solemnis and Mahler 3 are receiving the BBC Radio 3 'wall-to-wall' treatment.

Welser-Möst (above) doesn't programme trifles. Last night he warmed up with a concert performance of Verdi's Don Carlos. Tonight (Sunday 6th) he gives us Bruckner 7. Monday brings a full concert ending with Shostakovich 11, Tuesday a Beethoven symphony and Ravel's Bolero, thankfully interspersed by Dutilleux's 2nd Symphony, Come Wednesday it's time for Strauss' Elektra complete (presumably even Radio 3 couldn't sqeeze a complete Ring in), On Thursday we get a respite from the conductor with the Möst when the wonderful Pierre Boulez should delight us with a Cleveland performance of Webern, Boulez and Stravinsky. As if all that is not enough, Welser-Möst finishes off the saturation treatment on Friday with another trifle, Britten's War Requiem.

Is it unreasonable to ask the BBC what is going on here? I have no problem with their giving Welser-Möst, the Cleveland Orchestra or anyone else airtime. But with so many fine conductors (and recordings) around would Welser-Möst strike you as first, or even fifth, choice for a prime time performance of Bruckner 7 or the War Requiem? Sorry, I am afraid the answer is no. If I am feeling charitable I would assume that the globally obsessed BBC saw Welser-Möst and his US orchestra as being a strong 'international brand' (ugh!) for their internet audience. If I was uncharitable I'd have to assume they got a deal they couldn't refuse on the broadcast rights. Franz Welser-Möst does some repertoire exceedingly well. I have a fine Franz Schmidt Symphony No. 4 from him which won a 1995 Gramophone Award, and a while back I strongly recommended his recording of The Book of the Seven Seals from the same composer. But Bruckner and Britten?

Thankfully Haitink's Brucker 7 (his classic 1966 Concertgebouw version), and Britten's own sublime recording of the War Requiem (made in Snape Maltings) sit in my CD collection, so that is this week's listening sorted.

Form your own opinion of Welser-Möst's performances by listening live, or with the BBC' listen again' service
Picture credit: Culture Guide
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