Some thoughts on the Strings Category Final on BBC Four last night.
1. Violinist Elodie Chousmer-Howelles had the toughest gig going on first. I think that was reflected in what at times felt like an overly-considered performance. Technically brilliant with flair and pizzazz – I found it difficult to connect with her performance.
2. Will Duerden on double bass is a heartfelt performer with an infectious self-assurance that helped generate a heartfelt and sometimes heart-wrenching experience.
3. Violinist Stéphanie Childress holds the stage with poise and style. In this way she maintains a more assured presence than Elodie was. Stephanie appears relaxed, enjoying the performance experience the most out of all of the competitors. That’s an engaging thing to watch.
4. Guitarist Torrin Williams was electrifying. This may have something to do with the guitar being a solo instrument and him as a musician having control over all of the voices we’re listening to. His focus when playing is stunning. I’d like to watch his entire performance to get a sense of how he maintained that focus throughout. (see below).
5. Maxim Calver on cello did have the edge in terms of a live performance. He displayed a remarkable maturity on stage, played with a warm generosity, creating a more inclusive experience.
6. Josie D’Arby (presenter) is solid on her own; she’s not purporting to be an expert – I like that; she doesn’t do emoting backstage terribly well (who would – it’s a meaningless TV trope); the chemistry between D’Arby and Alison Balsom is a bit awkward but it got better.
7. It takes 15 minutes from the beginning of the programme before we see any performance. The quality of the programme has improved, but the amount of flummery is infuriating. Cut the first fifteen minutes of introductions and the repeated slow introductions of the judges, and include complete performances instead? In a 90 minute programme there would be sufficient available time.
8. The assessments of each performance work in as much that they just about help a knowledgeable viewer get their assessment confirmed. But, by and large these segments are safe bordering on the meaningless. Commentary needs to have a bit more bite (though I accept the series is probably already edited for broadcast so this point is too late to be implemented).
9. I’m told by the presenter that I can watch the full performances via the Young Musician website. I can’t play the full performances on my TV because the video is offered as part of the BBC iPlayer app (either Sky or native). The website video is being delivered using Flash ,not HTML 5 video (meaning TV browsers won’t play website videos because they don’t support Flash). That means I can only watch the full performance on a laptop not my mobile. I want to see the full performance as full scale as possible – watching on a laptop or mobile isn’t maximising the quality of the performance.
There’s no technical reason why the full performances can’t be made available via the BBC iPlayer app. For BBC people reading this – the video asset is in the iBroadcast system already (that’s why it appears on the Young Musician website) so the asset can easily be inserted into the iPlayer app. There’s just an unwillingness (an editorial decision made to not include it in iPlayer) to join the dots up and create a seamless experience for the audience. An easy win.
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