Thursday, 14 July 2011
Watching the Conductors
When the 117th season of that grand musical institution The Proms kicks off tomorrow, TV viewers will be able to avail themselves of a remarkable 'red button' feature called Maestrocam. This trains the camera relentlessly on the conductor, whose work is analysed in an expert running commentary. Hmm. I'm not sure that even watching the concert itself on TV adds anything to the musical experience; in fact it mostly distracts the attention. Nobody looks at their best while performing classical music, let alone conducting it. Many conductors grimace and gurn, emote and make extravagant interpretative gestures - which might be fine in the wide open spaces of the Royal Albert Hall, but will surely look pretty horrific under the pitiless gaze of Maestrocam. My late father always reckoned conducting was a racket. He would point to the behaviour of dance band leaders, who didn't even bother to face their musicians but turned the other way and spent their time smiling ingratiatingly at the audience while making vaguely rhythmic gestures of encouragement. In vain did we protest that dance bands and orchestras - and their respective repertoires - are rather different kettles of fish; there was no shifting him. How he would have relished Maestrocam!