Friday, July 16, 2010

Concerts and personalities

'A festival consists of two things: concerts and personalities'.
Cornelius Cardew got it dead right when he wrote those words in a 1963 review of a contemporary music festival in Cologne. Today, July 16, the 2010 season of Promenade Concerts starts. The series was founded by Sir Henry Wood in 1895 and the BBC has been involved with the concerts since 1927 but did not take full control until 1942. Since then personalities have become as important as the concerts, and not all the personalities appear on the platform. But my photo does show Herbert von Karajan on the Albert Hall platform, which leads us to this story from Tony Palmer's 1982 book Julian Bream, A Life on the Road:
Peter Maxwell Davies - 'Have you ever played in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam?'
Julian Bream - 'Yes, why?'
PMD - 'Because that is Karajan's favourite hall. Do you know why?'
JB - 'No.'
PMD - 'He has to enter down that long flight of steps at the back of the stage; and because he can stop to bow or wave on every step his entrance can take as long as the first act of Parsifal.'
For the first night of this year's Proms BBC Radio 3 listeners have the unalloyed delight of Petroc Trelawny introducing Jirí Belohlávek conducting Mahler's Eighth Symphony. Personally, I think you can get too much of a good thing. So instead of tuning in I will be at the Bach Players' concert in the Octagon Chapel, Norwich. As the photo below shows, this 18th century listed building is a perfect octagon and, thankfully, provides no opportunity for musicians or presenters to showboat.


Seems to be the right time to ask What price the BBC Proms?

Header quote is from Cornelius Cardew, A Life Unfinished by John Tilbury. Octagon Chapel photo credit Bach Players, and yes, that is the legendary Aude Gotto in the back row. All books and concert tickets mentioned in this post were purchased by me. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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