Friday, July 18, 2008

BBC Proms and the art of music promotion

'Everything you wanted to know about the Proms (but were afraid to ask)' is the screaming headline for a double-page spread in today's Independent by fellow blogger Jessica Duchen. Now something I wanted to know is why there is not a single note of Benjamin Britten's music in the 2008 Proms season, and, yes, the answer is in the Indie. The article helpfully explains that he wrote, and I quote, 'music of chilly glumness'. Like The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Noye's Fludde presumably? Fortunately we are spared an explanation as to why Peter Maxwell Davies' music is another notable absentee.

Elsewhere in the article Leonard Bernstein's Mass, which is represented at the Proms by three short excerpts, gets the treatment - 'this isn't the place to explain the whole Mass - be glad they're only doing the best bits'. But I did benefit from some of the other Proms insights in the article which include 'Wear comfortable shoes. If you go in high heels, you'll regret it' and 'Don't talk, eat, snog or slurp while the music is playing.'

Classical music promotion may be a lost art in London, but BBC Radio 3's excellent lunchtime concert from the Cheltenham Festival yesterday, together with an email from helpful reader, reminded me it is flourishing elsewhere.

This Mondrian-style poster is for a 2006 concert series by the Dutch wind ensemble Calefax whose repertoire ranges from arrangements of the 14th century Libre Vermell de Montserrat through Ellington to Conlon Nancarrow. Their recordings include an arrangement of Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues, which, unlike some of the things going on in London, is unmissable.

More Dutch contemporary music here and music promotion here.
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6 comments:

Jessica said...

Dearest Pliable, my commission was for a 'Bluffer's Guide to the Proms', to take a fresh and irreverent look at the goings-on. I guess you did find it suitably irreverent. The comment about Britten has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason they have not programmed any this year; it is a passing remark in a different context. I don't actually know why there's no Britten, but then there's no Korngold either, so I guess we can't have it all!

Pliable said...

Jessica, many sins are being committed in the name of taking 'a fresh and irreverent look' look at classical music.

What is this nonsense meant to achieve?

Just look at the facts about BBC Radio 3 where Roger Wright and his predecessor Nicholas Kenyon have given the network the same 'fresh look' that they have given to the Proms.

Independent audience research (see link below) shows that the 'fresh look' at Radio 3 has delivered a double-whammy. New listeners aren't being attracted while loyal listeners are switching off. In the process a cultural asset has been devalued to a national joke.

Are we going to sit back and let the same thing happen to the Proms?

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/05/bbc-radio-3-how-do-you-spell.html

Garth Trinkl said...

Sharon Percy Rockefeller and her team of commercial classical music programmers also promised to take a 'fresh look' at classical music programming at her Classical WETA-FM station, public radio in the Nation's Capital and Greater Washington Region over here on the other side of the pond. The result, here too, has been a severe dumbing down of classical music programming and broadcast standards as much even conservative modern music is abandoned and American classical music is virtually completely ignored since it didn't figure in the computer-driven listener testing polls brought over to the elite public broadcasting station by the commercial interlopers.

Sorry, Pliable, that there is no good classical music programming and broadcasting news to report currently from this culturally isolated musical spot over the pond. [Washington feels now a bit like the 'island' that West Berlin might have felt like in the middle 1960s -- minus the cultural leadership and subsidies, of course.]

Pliable said...

Garth, interestingly one of the choirs for Gergiev's Mahler 8 in St Paul's last week was The Choral Arts Society of Washington.

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/07/mahler-8-symphony-of-thousand-mistakes.html

http://www.choralarts.org/

Murai said...

Dear Pliable,

Thank you for the Calefax link. The music is wonderful and I have a new group to add to my list of favorites.

Pliable said...

My pleasure Murai, I am glad you found Calefax rewarding.

And it does prove that you don't need silly stunts to promote classical music.