Thursday, February 22, 2007

Towards a one-party musical state


Today's announcement that Nicholas Kenyon is to take over as Managing Director of the Barbican Centre arts complex takes London even closer to being a one-party musical state. Kenyon was appointed Controller of BBC Radio 3 in 1992, and has been Director of the BBC Proms since 1996. His tenure at the Proms has been marked by unimaginative planning which totally failed to reflect the diversity of today's contemporary music, and his programming repeatedly backed personal hobbyhorses at the expense of important voices. The track-record may be lacklustre, but Kenyon's pedigree is pure BBC - to the point of having written the official history of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The outgoing Barbican boss, John Tusa, was also previously a senior BBC man, but his track-record is positively visionary compared with Kenyon's. The agenda of the one-party state is driven by the BBC, which directly controls the world's biggest music festival, five major orchestras and a leading choir, a classical music broadcast and webcast network, artist's careers via the BBC New Generation Artist scheme, and the biggest new music commissioning budget in the world. Not content with this cultural hegemony, the BBC is now building a sphere of influence ranging from concert venues to artists agents, and is also developing a nifty line in news management.

As if all this is not enough, today's rumour in London is that Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright will take over Kenyon's vacated Proms seat, leaving the door open for another BBC apparatchik to take over Radio 3.

Can this really be healthy?

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3 comments:

Pliable said...

As I wrote this piece I was listening to BBC Symphony Chief Conductor Jirí Belohlávek being 'interviewed' by the BBC's Sean Rafferty on BBC Radio 3's In Tune programme.

The result was a laughable PR puff. Any independent interviewer given access to Belohlávek would ask the tough questions his orchestra are asking:

Why is he spending so little time with them?
Will he ever programme anything other than Czech music?
What is happening about the reported sale of the orchestra's Maida Vale home?

Not so 'pussy cat' Rafferty. Belohlávek may as well have been a visiting guest conductor. There was not a question about the prospects of the BBC Symphony.

All we got was an extended advertisement for a rare Belohlávek appearance with 'his' orchestra, a concert performance of The Excursions of Mr Broucek.

Which as we all know, is a story about a man who lives on the moon ...

Pliable said...

And some bright spark has posted this article on the re-opened BBC Radio 3 message board - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio3/F6643900?thread=3914305&latest=1

Pliable said...

Is this the sign of things to come?