Saturday, July 14, 2007

More about style than intellectual substance


"A lively era comes to an end this summer, when Nicholas Kenyon presides over his tenth and last BBC Proms season before going off to become the managing director of the Barbican. It’s spooky that his tenure has more or less coincided with Tony Blair’s as Prime Minister, because their regimes have been quite similar. Like Blair’s New Labour, Kenyon has promoted a “big tent” policy at the Proms: strong on diversity, inclusiveness and impact. And, like Blair, he has sometimes been accused of caring more about style and presentation than intellectual substance.

"It’s undeniable that Kenyon’s decade hasn’t been as notable for avant-garde shocks or bold commissions as, say, William Glock’s Prom seasons in the 1960s were. When, as an impressionable youth, I attended the bloodcurdling Proms premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Worldes Blisin 1969, I watched with astonishment as hundreds of outraged punters stampeded for the exits. Similarly, when John Drummond, Kenyon’s predecessor, provocatively programmed Harrison Birtwistle’s Panic on the Last Night in 1995 – knowing full well that it would be televised on BBC One at peak time on a Saturday evening – the BBC switchboard was jammed with calls from appalled viewers.

"Nothing in Kenyon’s era has caused such a furore – not even his faux pas of concocting an entire season last year without including a single woman composer or conductor. He is too silky-smooth an operator, and perhaps too emollient a personality; he doesn’t get a buzz from ruffling feathers.


Richard Morrison tells it like it is in this extract from The Times, although hasn't Nicholas Kenyon been director of the BBC Proms for twelve seasons, not ten? For more on those William Glock Proms, and also on a composer you won't find in the 2007 season, take this path.
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