Monday, January 02, 2012

Great New Year's Day concert - now let's move on


Classical music started 2012 with the traditional New Year's Day concert in Vienna. At which a rich white Judeo-Christian audience wallowed in Western music by long-dead composers played by prejudiced and doubly prejudiced musicians under the baton of a jet set maestro in a showpiece event funded by that ornament of one percenters Rolex (who received a prominent plug on the BBC coverage) and distributed globally by media conglomerates. It was a really wonderful concert and there will doubtless be much self-congratulation about the 50 million people in 72 countries who tuned in to the TV coverage. But less will be made of the 6.95 billion in the other 124 countries who did not make the connection. While classical music debates nothing changes.

Header image shows that Vienna can move on - transcriptions of Strauss waltzes by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern played by the Boston Sympony Chamber Players on my 1979 LP version. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter.

8 comments:

Andrew said...

Both halves of the New Year's day concert was transmitted here in Ireland for as long as i can remember until 2010 when it stopped completely both on TV and radio.

CC44 said...

I understand the larger point you're continuing to make about Classical music slowly suffocating itself by maintaining airs of elitism while asking why no one new comes to the show, but I think in this particular instance you are looking too intently for a forest where there's only a tree. 50 million people is a lot of people for any television program. I don't believe, even if all the issues you raise were addressed, that the audience share would be nominally higher.

Again, I understand that wasn't really the point you were trying to make, but I think the intensity with which you go after this specific example undermines your greater point. I'd be surprised if someone thought about tuning in to the New Year's Day concert and then decided not to because it was being financed by Rolex, or because the conductor gets paid hilarious amounts of money.

The self-provided airs of elitism and the sense that the repertoire is frozen in amber don't help, but the rest of it, I don't think, has as much to do with it as you say.

It's interesting to me that many young people today (I am "young people today") view The Great Composers as boring. I wonder if my grandchildren with think that anyone who likes The Beatles is an intellectual elitist.

Pliable said...

CC44, thanks for that and there will always be shades of opinion on topics such as this.

Two things persuade me to pursue this thread. The first is the huge number of readers attracted by the posts, many from outside classical music. In fact the original post on the subject attracted one of the largest single day readerships since the bog started seven years ago.

The second is that no other high profile blogger, with the notable exception of Alex Ross, has touched the story of ethically-compromised funders, despite the high level of interest in it.

In those circumstances perhaps a little intensity can be forgiven.

Gavin Plumley said...

The feed for the BBC's television coverage comes from ORF, hence the Rolex advertisement.

Why the tone, if 'it was a really wonderful concert'? Surely good is just good. Or do we have to uncover the negative in everything?

Pliable said...

Thanks Gavin for that and let's make it clear at this point that you were paid by BBC Radio 3 to deliver the interval talk in the 2011 Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concert - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wwm1p

In response to your points:

'The feed for the BBC's television coverage comes from ORF, hence the Rolex advertisement' - I do not follow that one. Why did the continuity announcer for the non-commercial BBC give Rolex a prominent plug? I suspect that in addition to paying ORF a lot of money for the broadcast rights the BBC also agreed to a contract clause obliging it to plug the sponsor. If that was the case what other obligations did the BBC agree to which compromise its editorial freedom? Did the BBC have to use a supplied script for the continuity announcements? - I suspect so from their bland tone. Was there a clause specifying approval of promotional content and limiting critical discussion of the Vienna Philharmonic concert? Why is the BBC, which is publicly funded to the tune of £33 billion, carrying advertising for Rolex? We will probably never know, because, quite scandalously, the broadcast activities of the BBC are exempt from the UK Freedom of Information Act.

'Or do we have to uncover the negative in everything?' - Gavin, this post was part of a thread on classical music sponsorship. Are you seriously suggesting the sponsorship by tobacco companies of the London Philharmonic and Ulster Orchestras, Glyndebourne Festival, Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Mariinsky Theatre and other institutions should be left uncovered? Not to mention the anti-feminist and anti-semitic background of the Vienna Phharmonic.

Gavin Plumley said...

I was indeed, but that doesn't impair my ability to comment ad infinitum. But is there anything the BBC does of which you approve?

The sponsorship debate is a valid one. Well done for covering it. But, specifically in relation to your second paragraph, I wonder whether all institutions should now be obliged to accept or reject money on the basis of the companies involved. Should alcoholic sponsorship be subject the same censure? Airlines and fuel companies for irrevocable damage to the environment? Where does it end, particularly when state support dwindles day by day?

Pliable said...

Gavin, you do not do yourself any justice with the snide remark “But is there anything the BBC does of which you approve?”

There are many examples On An Overgrown Path of praise for the BBC, here are just a few –

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/08/is-this-best-british-orchestra.html

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2011/10/rarely-rarely-comest-thou-bbc-spirit-of.html

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/10/remembering-forgotten-maestro.html

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2011/10/triumph-of-faith-and-idealism-over.html

My position on the BBCis quite clear and is best restated by quoting from my 2009 post about the BBC Proms.

“My life was changed by a Henry Wood Promenade Concert on 4th August, 1975. In the second half Sir Adrian Boult gave us Vaughan William's Fifth Symphony, and the blazing intensity of that performance remains unmatched, in my experience, in the concert hall or on record….

In 2009 Promenade Concerts are one of few remaining great British institutions. The Empire and Princess Diana have gone. But the Proms, with their signature Last Night, live on. And, just as with the Royal family, it is still considered ungentlemanly to question their role. But On An Overgrown Path was born for opposition. So the following is a rare attempt to discuss the role and price of the BBC Proms…

This article is an expanded version of the notes I prepared when invited recently to take part in a BBC Radio Five live discussion about the Proms. Unfortunately I was not allowed to air these views because, as the programme presenter explained, Roger Wright was not on the programme to answer my points. The BBC's unique dual position of both making and controlling the news about the Proms allows them to implement a policy of if you publish the Wright stuff you get your interview. Not to mention the dual roles played by a number of leading music journalists.”

Hopefully the paragraph above is a clear explanation as to why the BBC is one of many topics covered On An Overgrown Path .

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2009/08/what-price-bbc-proms.html

Gavin Plumley said...

Snide not. Pointed maybe. I can't confess to reading every single one of your posts (clearly more fool me) but you should admit - even within the body of these links - that you have a tendency to start from zero with the Beeb until you have been convinced otherwise. Britain would be a much poorer place without the presence of much of its work, both in and out of the classical sphere.