Friday, 12 September 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Proms




What a great Proms season! A packed two months of music making, the quality almost continuously high, and a good number of real standout performances. Of the concerts I attended, almost all were excellent: Iván Fischer’s Brahms, Runnicles’ Salome, the Seoul Philharmonic. The CBeebies Prom got a middling writeup from me, but my then three-year-old daughter loved it, and has talked about little else since. Gergiev’s Mahler was the only dud I got to, and Rattle’s Matthew Passion was the only one I heard on the radio and was glad to have missed.
But all up, the Proms team has done us proud, and done far more than just keep London’s musical life ticking over while its resident orchestras are away on their summer tours. How lucky we are to have this festival, unparalleled in both scale and quality.
I’ve complained about many aspects of the Proms before, and all those issues remain. First there’s the Albert Hall (in case the image above is misleading – I’m not suggesting we drop it on Russia). The acoustic is a much-discussed and divisive issue. All I’ll add is this: Don’t sit in the circle whatever you do; you’re better off at home listening on the radio. Then there is farcical charade of only publishing the programme ten weeks before the season begins. There’s the bizarre territorial politics of the Arena. And don’t get me started on the Last Night.
None of this is going to change anytime soon, so let’s accept the Proms for what it is and just enjoy it. The flipside to the acoustic issue at the Albert Hall is the atmosphere that the venue is able to generate, and that’s a precious thing. A highly anticipated concert here attracts a buzzing audience, and the enthusiasm of Prommers is regularly cited by performers as a reason why the event is so special to them. And every concert is a real event – just look at the social media coverage.
This year’s season marks the end of Roger Wright’s tenure, and he leaves the festival as strong and vibrant as ever. Not so with Radio 3 sadly, but it’s difficult to tell how many of the station’s recent woes are down to him. Wright will be succeeded by separate controllers of the Proms and Radio 3, and the former job certainly looks the more attractive. Hopefully, the new director of the Proms can find similarly effective ways to gently reinvent the traditions, and possibly even deal with some of the bigger problems too.
In the mean time, I’m off to my last Prom of the year; a star orchestra (the Gewandhaus) doing the Beethoven Nine. That’s one of the few persistent Proms traditions I’m not going to complain about. Saturday’s flag-waiving aside, this looks set to be a fitting conclusion to a great season.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Classical Music Documentaries Online



There seems to be an increasing number of classical music documentaries on YouTube these days, but it’s hard work keeping track of them. So I’ve drawn up a list, as much for my own benefit as anybody else’s. A quick trawl around the site (and I’ll confess, that’s all I’ve done) pulls up all sorts of things I never knew existed. A lot of these documentaries date from the 1980s and 90s, a time when television, in the UK at least, took arts coverage more seriously than it does today. There are some real gems from Barrie Gavin and Tony Palmer, and later John Bridcut and Bruno Monsaingeon. I’ve stretched the definition of ‘documentary’ to include Ken Russell’s extravagances – it seemed a shame not to, and most of them seem to be here.

A large proportion of these programmes were made by the BBC, and I don’t know if the Beeb is aware that they are currently online. My hope is that the Corporation considers accessibility to be an aspect of its public service remit and is therefore happy to let us see them. If not, I hope this post won’t hasten their demise. On that subject, please leave me a message if you find any of these links are now dead. Also, if there is anything I’ve missed (and I’m sure there is), please put a link in the comments and I’ll add it. In the mean time: Enjoy!


COMPOSERS



BACH

Bach: A Passionate Life (John Eliot Gardiner) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOO8IC8_VaY 

Great Composers: Bach (BBC 1997)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkKd1fjgqKI


BABBITT
Babbitt: Portrait of a Serial Composer (Robert Hilferty)

BEETHOVEN
BBC Great Composers: Beethoven

The Genius of Beethoven

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD_tbzrUj2k

Beethoven's Eroica (Simon Cellan Jones BBC 2003)

 

BERG

Alban Berg documentary (Barrie Gavin, BBC)

 

NADIA BOULANGER

Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger (Bruno Monsaingeon)


CAGE
Four American Composers: John  Cage (Peter Greenaway, 1983)

CHOPIN

The Women Behind The Music (James Rhodes, BBC, 2010)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rOOLm3n6GY

 

DEBUSSY

The Debussy Film (Ken Russell, 1965)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsdAIYmSHAg

 

DELIUS

Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma (John Bridcut)

 

ELGAR

Elgar: Portrait of a Composer (Ken Russell)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM2YGJCjAEA

Elgar - Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle (Ken Russell 2002)

 

GLASS

Glass - A Portrait of Philip In Twelve Parts (Scott Hicks, 2007)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGaG5VJqgZg

 

GUBAIDULINA
Portrait of Sofia Gubaidulina (BBC, 1990)

HANDEL
George Frederick Handel BBC Documentary

LISZT
Liszt in the World (University of California Television)

MAHLER

BBC Great Composers: Mahler

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnBNFRzdkIM

Mahler (Ken Russell, 1974)
What The Universe Tells Me (Documentary on Mahler's 3rd Symphony)

MARTINŮ
The Mystery of Dr Martinu (Ken Russell)

MEREDITH MONK
Four American Composers: Meredith Monk (Peter Greenaway, 1983)

MOZART
BBC Great Composers: Mozart

BBC - The Genius of Mozart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc4XdUu-G5Q

 

PROKOFIEV

The Prodigal Son (BBC, 1991?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWAkNidQCo8  

 

PUCCINI

BBC Great Composers: Puccini

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpYAntNU-V8

 

RACHMANINOFF

Harvest of Sorrow (Tony Palmer)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi3MU9JnL7E  

 

REICH

Steve Reich - South Bank Show (2006)

 

SCHNITTKE

The Unreal World of Alfred Schnittke (BBC 1990)

 

SCHOENBERG

Bogeyman -- Prophet – Guardian (Barrie Gavin, 1974)

 

SCHUBERT

Schubert Documentary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOeS93VATck

 

STRAVINSKY

Igor Stravinsky Documentary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSJQwkBKKBo

 

SHOSTAKOVICH

Shostakovich against Stalin, The war symphonies (Larry Weinstein)

 

STRAUSS

Richard Strauss -Remembered

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0ImK5CpSmo

 

TCHAIKOVSKY

BBC Great Composers: Tchaikovsky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyt1asgJPZ0

 

WAGNER

BBC Great Composers: "Richard Wagner"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q5_LV7xOL4

 

VICTORIA

Tomás Luis de Victoria - God's Composer (Simon Russell Beale, BBC)

 

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
The Passions of Vaughan Williams (John Bridcut, BBC, 2008)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUjWo-diK-Y

 

VIVALDI

Vivaldi and the women of the Pieta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=153WVp8QJQ0



PERFORMERS

PABLO CASALS

Pablo Casals - BBC documentary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z20GwENK1-w

 

WILHELM FURTWÄNGLER

Wilhelm Furtwängler Documentary (BR/BBC c. 1970)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvCRFK4vyys


GLENN GOULD
Glenn Gould – Off The Record (CBC 1959)

Glenn Gould On The Record

Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Francois Girard 1993)

Genius within The inner life of Glenn Gould (2009)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-gEI4VBEDk



BENJAMIN GROSVENOR

Imagine Being a Concert Pianist


EDITA GRUBEROVA
The art of Belcanto - Edita Gruberova

GERALD MOORE
How to Sing Bel Canto: World Singers (1961)

ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER
Anne-Sophie Mutter Documentary "A Portrait"

SVIATOSLAV RICHTER

Sviatoslav Richter The Enigma (Bruno Monsaingeon 1998)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfJVpjI3wJM


MSTISLAV ROSTROPOVICH

Rostropovich The Genius of the Cello (BBC, 2011)


GEORG SOLTI

Maestro or Mephisto: The Real Georg Solti (2002)


LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI

Stokowski at 88 (1970)


JOAN SUTHERLAND
The Reluctant Prima Donna

KIRI TE KANAWA
What Makes a Great Soprano?

ARTURO TOSCANINI

Toscanini "The Maestro revisited" (1967)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0dgrjNxXSY

 

ROLANDO VILLAZÓN
What Makes a Great Tenor?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A66Adiz0pY



INSTRUMENTS

GUITAR

Imagine - The Story of the Guitar


HARP

The Harp - BBC Documentary


VIOLIN

The Art of Violin



GENERAL

Birth of the symphony: Handel to Haydn (AAM)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8jp2FKmDKM


In The Ocean - A Film About The Classical Avant Garde:

 

Howard Goodall's Story of Music (BBC 2013)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkKd1fjgqKI


Leaving Home - Orchestral Music in the 20th Century