BBC Proms Diary 2018: Bartok from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and (even more) moaning

I heard back from the Proms Office after my (though I say it myself) charming moan.

An administrative error it turns out. Historic lists. The additions process not being as robust as perhaps it could be. Investigations will, I’m assured, be carried out in the morning.

I was of course ‘very welcome to attend’. I reiterated that to then accept an invitation would result in a rather hollow experience for me (and essentially make me look like a complete prick). I had, in a very real sense, created my own fait accompli. I extended my appreciation for the Proms Agent coming back to me, following up ten minutes later with an updated message when I realised my iPhone’s auto-correct had issued a bewildering sentence. I now imagine everyone at the BBC basically hates me. Whatever.

How the BBC Proms is squeezing out independent voices

A few days distance on the matter reminds me of the original underlying ‘moan’. For clarification: it’s not that I’m not able to be present at the event; it’s the disappointment that they didn’t think of me in the first place. Put simply it would have been nice to have been asked. 

It makes me more certain of my hunch this season – a mutually beneficial partnership between two content producing platforms risks occluding independent voices. I don’t deny either platform (not really). But in overlooking independent voices, the Proms is inadvertently perpetuating a problem.

It’s limiting the conversation. It’s restricting the language used to discuss a genre which already struggles to acquire mainstream recognition. By doing so the Proms is not only limiting the range of conversations to be had about its content, it’s perpetuating the notion that assumed expertise is a prerequisite for understanding the artform. And that’s something that’s completely at odds with Henry Wood’s and RobertNewman’s founding principles for the concert series.


It’s been a massively demanding few days at work. Rewarding stuff. The recovery from the two-day facilitation course I’ve hosted has taken me by surprise – I woke up this morning wondering whether I’d run a marathon in my sleep. The prospect of catching up on the concerts I’d missed since Wednesday felt like a massive demand on my energies. 

So, I settled on revisiting the RLPO gig on Wednesday night. Elgar’s In The South is a pleasant surprise. Not in any way like Elgar. Not British at all. The commentator says StraussI hear Mahler. I hear an ugly monster (and probably smelly) lunging around. I hear a golden holiday destination and an odd grand kind of musical full stop that helps me tie-up loose ends from the week. 

I listened to the rest of the concert (again) on the big speakers downstairs in the lounge while the OH has his bath, drafting a quotation for a video editing job at the same time – or at least I start drafting the quotation.

Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra

The spirit, depth and richness of the RLPO’s sound commands my full attention. I skip to the Bartok at the end of the concert – it is a riveting affair. It reminds me of two unexpected press trips to Budapest – the place where I ‘get’ Wagner for the first time in my life – and where I hear unequivocal pride in music in the composer’s homeland. I’m not sure I necessarily love Hungary, but I think it’s somewhere I’d like to return to. It’s where I remember my sense of independence was re-awakened.

I’m surprised by the way we have collectively overlooked what Petrenko has achieved with the RLPO over the years. The RLPO sounds like the ocean liner of UK orchestras – worthy of revisiting Petrenko’s and their catalogue of recordings, I think. Maybe a post-Proms project?

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