Proms 2006 launches Martini music-making
Johannes Ockeghem, Missa Au Travail suis, Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Phillips
Gustav Mahler, Ninth Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Kent Nagano
This imaginative, and risk-taking, programme sold out on two consecutive evenings; that is no mean task for a programme including a Mass by Ockeghem, and in a hall with the capacity of the Philharmonie.
It is the absence of risk-taking that I find so disappointing in the 2006 Proms programme which was published last week. It is all so predictable - Mozart and Shostakovich by the shedload, a total absence of Arnold, Rubbra or Finzi because Proms Controller Nicholas Kenyon has no time for composers that are not 'global brands', there is a strong presence from Reich, Adams and Golijov, because they are 'internet box office', big name touring orchestras ride into town on tired old warhorses like the Rite of Spring, there is the mandatory headline grabbing news story in the form of the 'completion' of Elgar's sixth Pomp and Circumstance March - need I go on?
Where is the creative tension that makes a great programme? Where is the excitement of new discoveries? Where is the challenge of the unfamiliar? Where is the diversity?
It was no coincidence that the 2006 Proms prospectus was released in the same week as BBC Director General Mark Thompson set out his 'Creative Vision' vision for the digitally empowered BBC, delivering 'Martini media' - any place, any time, as in the Martini drinks advertisement. The Proms are now just a virtual jukebox stocked with the tunes that the Martini media generation want to play on demand across a range of platforms. Technology is king at the BBC, and the composer is now its servant.
Strangely though I find all this tremendously encouraging. Risk averse Martini media, like the 2006 Proms, from self-styled global players like the BBC completely ignores the fact that the internet does not acknowledge scale. Martini media will open up huge opportunities for 'micro brewery' music-makers prepared to take risks. Local festivals, new composers, independent record companies, internet radio stations, online music stores and many more will reap huge rewards from the folly of the BBC's Martini music-making.
Image credit - Jan Op De Beek who kindly gave permission for use, do visit his website for more wonderful caricatures. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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