Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog

Proms rant
August 23, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts

No apologies for using the orchestra’s blog for a personal rant. I am referring here to the newly commissioned works for the 2008 Promenade Concert season. Now I regard myself as being genuinely receptive to new music: I thoroughly enjoyed the works by Stockhausen this year (as did our cat, whose musical tastes must command considerable respect. He purred continuously throughout Stimmung). Stockhausen, and many other 20th-21st century composers, have created a sound world that is interesting, stimulating, challenging and often startlingly beautiful. What a disappointment then to be presented with a litany of pretentiously titled pieces that, in the words of Peter Cooke, ‘lacked everything’. Above all, they lacked interest, sounding as one particular piece did, as though the composer was sitting on a cactus sucking an unripe lemon. Never mind: as my father once said, “the Proms’ audience is the least critical you will ever find. They will applaud anything, even if it hasn’t finished.”

I suppose it is all a quetion of fashion, and I admit that I did not listen to every new work, so I may have missed a masterpiece. But what I heard suggested to me that the commissioners were going for a particular sound palatte. It is a shame that unfashionable composers, even if they are extremely good, don’t get a look-in. Take Christopher Brown, for instance, who recently wrote a piece for our orchestra. He is a craftsman who has steadfastly ploughed his own furrow to create genuinely magical music in a style (simultaneously modern and traditional) that is recognisably his own. He has received commissions world wide from prestigious choirs, orchestras and chamber groups. Nothing from the Proms, of course.

Anyway, still 3 weeks to go and some mouth watering concerts to anticipate. There are some new works, too, and perhaps one will turn out to be a real gem. Then, yet again, I will be looking for that edible hat of mine. Click here to see what’s on this week .



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