Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bach to normal programmes

BBC Radio 3's Bach Christmas should have been like a long and arduous flight which finally reached a wonderful destination.

Unfortunately I had a problem as soon as the flight started. All around me on the plane I found BBC presenters who insisted on talking all the time. Gratuitous explanations of the music were not enough, they also read out vacuous listener emails, kept plugging the online 'message board', repeatedly played the same Bach sound-bytes from talking heads, and kept running the most excruciating 'commercial' for (and I joke not) 'the late great B minor Mass'.

After three days of this I became desperate and sent an email to the BBC saying please stop reading out listeners emails, just let the music speak for itself. Within sixty seconds of clicking on send the presenter (Sean Rafferty) read out my email.

Sadly by the time my flight reached its destination I was grumpy, out of sorts, and vowing never to make the journey again unless I had different company. (Come back Patricia Hughes, Peter Barker, and renounce your vows Cormac Rigby).

There were some revelatory things in the Bach Christmas, particularly the chorale realisations. But the planners should have realised that the frequency at which sacred cantatas would need to be broadcast was going to present a major problem of listener fatigue. It could just have been solved by studious, sparing and stylish presentation. Sadly it was sunk by the BBC's desperate attempt to go 'inclusive' and 'interactive'.

It was Claude Debussy who said that music is the silence between the notes. On Radio 3 last week the agony was the presenters between the music.

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2 comments:

David said...

I only could manage a few hours of Bach time and heard a few nice things, but also had to suffer:

* A violin partita played on solo marimba
* Fugues played on Moog
* Jacques Loussier 'reinterpretive' pap
* A cheesy American pop singer singing sentimental words to the tune of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, accompanied by banjo

We don't normally have to listen to this shite on Radio 3. When these things come on, all I can say is thank goodness for reliably conservative Classic FM as backup.

Pliable said...

Thx David, and talking of shite on Radio 3 in the last couple of weeks I have heard both Mantovani and Semprini recordings played.

Interestingly the Oxford University Press Musical Lives extracted from the Dictionary of National Biography and edited by Nicholas Kenyon contains an entry for Semprini!

Kenyon can't programme Malcolm Arnold at the Proms, but he includes Semprini among the great musicians of the 20th century ...