Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our top classical musicians must learn to say no


Blame for the relentless suburbanization of classical music is invariably laid at the door of radio stations, record companies and the media. But some of the blame must be taken by the musicians themselves. In his classic The Snow Leopard Peter Matthiessen, who died earlier this month, wrote of the "debasement of our vision, the retreat from wonder, the backing away like lobsters from free-swimming life into safe crannies". It is this retreat from wonder that is leaching the lifeblood out of classical music, and it is happening with the tacit approval of people who should know better. Now let's get one thing straight. I am a fan of Sakari Oramo and I applaud his programming William Alwyn's First Symphony at this year's Proms - the first Alwyn symphony for thirty-two years. But the performance on August 13 will have to be very good to make up for the loss of credibility the BBC Symphony Orchestra's new chief conductor has suffered in my eyes from the Proms publicity shot above. This widely circulated photo* is not so much a retreat from wonder on his part as a headlong flight. Our top classical musicians must learn to say no. When approached by the misguided BBC publicists Sakari Oramo should have had the courage to say: "Take your media celebrities elsewhere. I am not in the entertainment business. I am in the wonder business".

* For those readers who, like me, cannot identify the celebrities in the photo, my research uncovers that they are from the left, Janine Jansen, Sakari Oramo, Paloma Faith, Katie Derham and in the background a puppet from the drama War Horse Also on Facebook and Twitter. 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).

5 comments:

Pliable said...

In a comment on Facebook Richard Bratby informs that "It's been mooted that this is a photoshopped image which may or may not have been produced with the knowledge of the artists involved".

Pliable said...

Again on Facebook Ralph Spurrier comments:

"It is VERY indicative of the tacky nature of this promo pic that Ms.Derham has been shoe-horned into the grouping. Precisely what does she have to do with the Proms apart from being an announcer? Presentation winning out over the content again. ( I have no idea who Paloma Faith is or what she does but to judge by this picture she hangs about on street corners. )"

Pliable said...

On reflection I find the explanation that the image is a Photoshop montage created without the participants' permission difficult to believe.

If this was the case it would have to use five pre-existing images (counting the puppet). A quick online search turns up no instances of the individual images. It may well be the case that the photo is a montage from four discrete photo sessions as bringing the four human subjects together for a single shoot would be logistically difficult. But four discrete photo sessions means Oramo and the others were well aware of what was going on.

Yes, a lot of fuss over one photo. But the comment from a reader above does confirm that top classical musicians are shooting themselves in the foot by participating in these PR stunts.

Pliable said...

Confirmation that it is not Photoshopped - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/posts/Its-not-a-real-horse

Peter S. said...

Then it's quite a photographic achievement to make a 'real' photo look so awful, regardless of the content.