Saturday, July 16, 2016

Conductors in glass houses should not throw stones

That publicity photo for the 2014 BBC Proms season attracted a lot of criticism as yet another example of the dumbing down of the once great concert series. The conductor in it is Sakari Oramo, so it is surprising to find an interview with him in yesterday's Telegraph headlined 'Sakari Oramo: ‘The Proms should not be dumbed down''. And it is even more surprising and puzzling to find the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra explicitly criticising his BBC colleagues in the Proms planning team by saying "I would not go any further down this tendency of, what shall I call it… ‘dumbing down’, which one can see creeping round the edges... I would steer away from that totally, completely”.

Let me say now that I have the greatest admiration for Sakari Oramo as a conductor, and, of course, his criticism is perfectly valid. But he knew the direction the Proms were taking before he accepted the lucrative and prestigious post of chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra - see photo below. In that powerful role he surely must have some influence. So will Oramo actually do anything about the trend that he laments? Or is his Telegraph interview just another example of opportunistic click bait publicity for a lacklustre 2016 Proms season and his own career? Call me old fashioned, but my view is that conductors in glass houses should not throw stones until they have repaired the windows broken by those they have chosen to work with.

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David said...

His main work of the year is in the main Barbican season, where he has been allowed to programme with great thoughtfulness (the Nielsen series with the symphonies in the company of works from the same years being the best example). I don't suppose he saw the lacklustre programme for this year's Proms when he signed up. Anyway, it's for him a relatively small part of the job. The main thing is that all the BBCSO players I've spoken to adore him. Long may that continue.

Pliable said...

Fair comment David, and its good news that Sakari Oramo is popular with his orchestra. But the dumbing down trend at the Proms has been in evidence for years, not just this season. And the Proms may be a small part of his work, but it also a high profile part - hence the interview. So I would be interested in your view as to why Sakari Oramo chose to bite the hand that feeds him in this way. Do you think he will actually do anything about the trend that he laments? Or was it all just a nice soundbite?