Proms 2009: Prom 12 – Holst Planet Suite \ Mackerras \ BBC Philharmonic
There’s an assumption, a conclusion jumped to, amongst self-proclaimed “serious” classical music lovers. It’s this: Live music can only be appreciated if you’re within spitting distance of the concert platform. It’s the kind of opinion which makes radio and TV producers guffaw with derision. It’s as though radio and television are the poor relation to the real thing.
Last night’s Prom at the Royal Albert Hall disproved that assumption. The BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Sir Charles Mackerras wowed audiences at home with a programme of simple, good value works all in High Definition (for those who had it) or on normal BBC Four. Some of us smug so and sos experienced it in Dolby Surround.
Whilst it may not initially sound like a choice viewing experience, being able to see the beads of sweat on the forehead of the principal clarinettist confirmed in my mind at least that HD was not only the way to go, but this combined with a large glass of beer and a chinese takeaway made this particular Proms experience superior over standing in the arena.
The truth is that I’d dismissed Holst’s Planet Suite in part because I’ve heard it so much. Movements played out of context, repeatedly, make the thought of the complete work seem like nothing more than wallpaper.
But I’d underestimated to what extent Holst’s Planet Suite was as popular as it was. The broadcast might have been relayed rather than live, but that apparent drawback in live presentation I’m so hot on didn’t dent enthusiasm with people who like to combine a Saturday night with a spot of tweeting on the internet. People seemed to be rising to the occasion. The number may not have been massive, but as collective experiences of a supposedly niche interest, it felt good.
Watching at home and tracking what people were saying on Twitter at the same time not only brought the Proms out into the open a little more, but saw it occupy it’s rightful place in Saturday night entertainment. Nothing fancy, nothing brash, just a little bit of culture in the form of a fantastic performance of the Planet Suite, reminding me that Holst wrote something which all of us desperately courting an audience which manages to grab attention and maintain interest all the way through the 50 minutes it lasts. I’m sure Holst would have been delighted.
And not a single round of applause out of place, which in a strange way seemed rather odd.