Thursday, April 10, 2008


The BBC has announced, a little earlier than usual, the plans and programme for the 2oo8 Proms season. The full concert listing starts here. The full prospectus will appear this week (it usually appears the first week in May). For those of us interested in the music, as distinct from the egged-on but essentially bogus 'culture wars' surrounding the annual festival, the news is that the Elliot Carter, Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen anniversaries are duly marked - especially the latter. There's also a justified remembrance of late Proms director John Drummond, a champion of new music, in Mark Anthony Turnage's Chicago Remains, which is dedicated to him.

Also notable is the tribute to Stockhausen (2 August, including Gruppen), Handel's Belshazzar (16 August), a Janacek evening (the night before), several chunks of Varese, the often overlooked Bach St John Passion (24 August), Shostakovitch's emotionally exhausting and exhilarating 10th Symphony offered by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle (3 September), and a world premier from Anna Meridith on the Last Night (which is otherwise the usual jingoistic embarrassment at the end of what is otherwise surely the world's greatest music festival - time to relocate the dated denouement to the moon, surely?).

The so-called 'Doctor Who prom' is the obvious populist gambit, though it probably won't succeed in pleasing anybody in particular. The new Proms director Roger Wright appeared with Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4 Front Row yesterday, affecting surprise that this is what the general press would pick up on, since none of them are the least bit interested in 'difficult' music.

It looks a balanced programme overall. My only real complaint is about the continuing, inexcusable and shameful neglect of Sir Michael Tippett's music. Surely no other nation treats its recent greats with such contempt? The fact that Wright proclaims "the British Isles" to be a major theme for 2008 only adds insult to injury. [Pic: Ilan Volkov, (c) BBC]

Comment on this post: NewFrontEars


Anonymous said...

I was interested to read your snobbish attitude towards the Doctor Who prom.

As a lifelong lover of classical music, I've been amazed by the reaction of my own children to the music of Doctor Who, composed by the brilliant Murray Gold.

I took them to the much celebrated Doctor Who concert in Wales in 2006 where they soaked up every whisper of a piano key, every boom of a tuba, every pull of a harp string. They were only 4 and 7 at the time and they pestered me for the soundtrack afterwards, a soundtrack which contains some incredible vocal work from Melanie Pappenheim (a colleague of your good friend, Adey Grummet I might add).

Murray Gold should be applauded for introducing children and new listeners to classical music through their avid watching of Doctor Who. Like the Proms, Doctor Who is an institution which should be embraced and not looked down on by general snobbery.

Simon Barrow said...

My comment wasn't in the least meant to be snobby, and I'm sorry if it came across that way. Elsewhere on my blog you'll see me arguing against 'classical disdain'. And I have a few friends who are Doctor Who writers and aficiondos, too! My fear, however, is that for many it will fall between two stools and be seen as an attempt on both sides to 'cash in'. I'd be very happy to be wrong though, and wholly applaud the work of Murray Gold - and you, for taking your kids. Thanks for writing, and sorry you felt it had to be anonymous. Best, S.

Anonymous said...

Well I am glad your comment was not intended to be snobby because in my opinion Murray Gold is a huge inspiration for a younger generation of music fans. If one child came away from that Doctor Who concert wanting to play an instrument, that melts me. :-)

Also, my name is SJ.