BBC Proms 2011: Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra – New Commentary

News just in from the BBC Proms press office is that there’s something rather new making an appearance in amongst a tried and tested and hugely popular orchestral work at the Last Night of the Proms this year.

I am genuinely excited about it.

The BBC has commissioned writer Wendy Cope to write a new commentary to accompany the Benjamin Britten Young Persons’ Guide to the Orchestra. It will be premiered on Saturday 10 September 2011. And – not only that – the commentary will be read by Jenny Agutter.

You may not be aware that Young Persons’ Guide does have a commentary. I only know this because I have the score upstairs in my office and because I remember hearing the original commentary on a scratchy recording played to me by my music teacher thirty years ago. As I recall, that commentary was read by former Proms presenter of old Kenneth Kendall.

The idea behind that original commentary was that it provided annotations for the young audience. Sometimes the commentary introduced solo lines or ensemble sections in the 20 minute piece. At other points the commentary was spoken over the orchestral accompaniment. As I recall – possibly because of Kendall’s frightfully BBC voice – it was all very ‘proper’.

Most of the recordings I have – indeed, most of the performances I’ve heard in recent years – have been commentary-less. The thinking being that the form of the music itself does much to describe the orchestra anyway, making the commentary redundant. I think too that the original commentary may appear rather outdated – perhaps a little stale ? – for present day audiences.

So it’s with all of that in mind that Wendy Cope’s new commentary promises to make this familiar work – part of the standard repertoire for bands now – an interesting proposition on the night.

Another reason why I’m looking forward to live blogging the general rehearsal on Saturday morning.

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