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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

How to ruin a Prom

By Norman Lebrecht / August 1, 2007

Monday night’s Prom was the emptiest I have seen in years. There was room enough in the standing section of the Royal Albert Hall to lie down in double-bed comfort (as some duly did) and vast tracts of seating glared bare as a rose garden in winter. No need to look for reasons. The concert sandwiched a new 33 minute piano concerto by a part-time composer between Ravel’s sun-dappled Tombeau de Couperin and vivisectioned chunks of Berlioz’s exhaustive Romeo and Juliet.

The concerto was by the night’s celebrated Finnish conductor, Esa Pekka Salonen, who told us in the programme book that ‘the music I write is connected to the music I conduct’. He could say that again. Once listeners had got past Debussy, Ravel, Gershwin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and a devout homage to Messiaen and his birdsong, they were left looking in vain for an original voice.

It is widely though unreliably believed that new music is an audience deterrent. Here, there was nothing much new and still they stayed away in droves. Premieres by Adams, Ades, Reich, Saariaho and Turnage will often fill a house when the music is virile and the context is right. What we witnessed on Monday was the BBC, dazzled by maestro celebrity, allowing Salonen to play fast and loose with its programming and wreck a Prom in the process.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]


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