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Felix Mendelssohn

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Classical iconoclast

September 12

Practical and important improvements : BBC Proms 2016 Post Mortem

Classical iconoclast Now the Royal Albert Hall is quiet, though the cleaners and maintenance people are busy, let's take stock of the BBC Proms 2016 season and look ahead. The Proms are so big that plans are made many years in advance - that's the way the business work.  No doubt the figures will show good sales, which will please politicians and bureaucrats. But success isn't measured solely in terms of statistics.   Short-term targets are all very well, and box-ticking, but what of the longer-term future? Will the Proms honour the musical ideals of Sir Henry Wood or will they become a giant commercial splash promoting anything but serious music?  First, kaput to the mantra that the Proms have to be all things to everyone. Proms for kids, Proms for minority interests, etc etc are a very good thing indeed.  Even party-time gimmicks have their place - that's why we love the Last Night of the Proms. But any business that loses sight of its USP goes down the tubes.  In the case of the BBC, that's a real danger given the competition from vested outside interests.  A few years ago, many moaned about the Michael Ball Prom. It brought in new audiences, yes, but not the core Proms audience, but audiences who thought that by hearing Ball at the RAH they "knew" about music.  Now, nivellement par le bas become the norm.  Even the Children's Prom, which not long ago was so good that even adults could enjoy it , is now more about being cute than getting kids enthused.  Will these kids grow up thinking that serious music is poison that must be coated in sugar? I know someone who was taken to the Proms at schools and hated the experience so much that she's assumed ever since that music is for middle-class toffs pretending to be Right On.  My friend, and many of her friends, are not fools. They can spot condescension a mile away.  Sir Henry Wood believed that ordinary people were capable of learning.  Now, those who make arts policy seem ashamed of excellence, trapping us in a counter-productive downward spiral.   It's all very well to chaase new audiences, for that is the current mantra. But face demographics, and face the global market for the arts.  Through technology, the BBC Proms can reach millions all over the world.  In places like Asia - potentially the biggest market of all - people are brought iup to value cultivation. they look to the BBC as a beacon of high standards. Give them too much parochial drivel and lose their attention.  Anecdotal evidence is that many Proms regulars are cutting down on what they attend. Driving  away the core audience is bad business : killing the goose that laid the golden eggs in the first place.  Although one could cultivate the proms as fun for tourists, the fact is that the British public is ageing. This year, I've witnessed many problems for people with disabilities. I don't know if the Royal Albert Hall,is exempt from normal Health and Safety regulations, but surely there must be ways for the BBC to make things fairer for those who can't leap up stairs and stand in the arena.  One obvious and very simple solution: keep seats with easy access for people with disabilities, so people with special needs can book ahead, knowing that they will be able to use seats that currently have to be booked blind.   One man told me how difficult it is just to come to the RAH, and then be turned away. Better even, he saiud, to spend a bit more than lose so much.  Not everyone who is disabled is in a wheelchair or is registered blind or whatever, but people have a right to come to the Proms and be treated with dignity. If these reserved seats don't sell close to date, then sell them openly. It can't be that difficult.   Part of being a presenter is the ability to adlib while stages are being changed and so on, and that's a skill!  But it would help if the presenters were briefed and not just off Wikipedia.  Proms interval features vary : one of the best this year - by far - was the shepherd who spoke during the prom that featured Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Someone with something genuinely interesting to say, not just a motormouth. Also, as a voice person, I can vouch that at least one presenter needs a voice coach.  Take breaths for punctuation, don't let your voice squeak higher and higher , faster and faster, calm down and be natural.  Hysteria might be fine on some forms of radio (like sports), but it pains audiences who listen  to pitch and modulation. 

Guardian

September 23

A musical tour of Europe's great cities: Hamburg

Our series continues with Germany’s second largest city – where Brahms and Mendelssohn were born, Telemann and Mahler worked and the Beatles came of ageThis week’s stop on our tour of Europe’s great musical centres is the northern German city of Hamburg, the country’s second largest, the eighth biggest in the EU and – Wikipedia tells me – the second biggest port in Europe.Wikipedia is less useful when it comes to music: the entry for Hamburg leads with the fact that the German premiere of Cats took place there 30 years ago. But the city is also the birthplace of Johannes Brahms and where the Beatles cut their teeth between 1960 and 62. It is also big in heavy metal and hip-hop. Continue reading...






Felix Mendelssohn
(1809 – 1847)

Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 - 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Felix Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his abilities. Early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well-received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist. His essentially conservative musical tastes however set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook. Mendelssohn's work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the Hebrides Overture, his Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has now been recognised and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.



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