2018 BBC Proms celebrate Mahler, Mahler and yet more Mahler
In the 2018 BBC Proms season announced today there are no less than six Mahler symphonies. This represents 60% of the composer's symphonic output, and his First Symphony receives its fourteenth Proms performance in eighteen years. If Proms planners took any notice of this blog, which of course they don't, they would doubtless hope that my attention would be diverted from the copious Mahler and Shostakovich - yet another 'Leningrad' and Fifth Symphony - by the first Proms appearance of Senegalese singer and songwriter Youssou N'Dour, whose 2004 Grammy-winning album Egypt is influenced by Islamic mysticism. But sorry, I am not impressed.
Youssou N'Dour is a leading figure in a generation of musicians who have, to quote Ross Daly, turned world music into "an offshoot of the pop music industry with an emphasis on party music". Of course there is a place for populist crossover projects. But not at the BBC Proms; which should enlighten and challenge its audiences with authentic performances from the global traditions, instead of giving the music a 'congenial' makeover. There are a few gems in the 2018 Proms, including a rare performance of Parry's Fifth Symphony. But, given the enormous resources at the BBC's disposal, those gems are disgracefully few and far between. With the 2018 Proms Alan Davey and David Pickard have done an exemplary job of ticking all the politically correct and media-friendly boxes. But the problem is, as in so much classical music programming today, there is very little in the boxes except ticks. And yes that Clinton Cards moment is for real. It could have come from BBC Radio 3, but is, quite appropriately, from Classic FM.
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