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Proms Director Roger Wright answers your questions

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 18:31 UK Time, Friday, 2 September 2011

Photo of Proms Controller Roger Wright at the Royal Albert Hall

I am busy answering the latest batch of questions for the Ask the Director section of the BBC Proms website. This will be the penultimate set of Q and As that we publish as we move into the last week of the festival tomorrow. It is a very helpful way for me to deal with any questions audience members, radio listeners or TV viewers have about the Proms.

I am also looking forward to a good discussion at my annual public Q and A session in the Proms Plus event next Wednesday.

Given the disruption to the Prom last night, I expect questions about that concert. Amongst other subjects, I also expect to be asked about the issue of the lack of fountain in the arena of the Royal Albert Hall. So the debate will be as wide-ranging as ever.

Much has already been written and said about last night's Prom featuring the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and I recognise the wide variety of views.

I am sorry that the concert was disrupted and that we chose reluctantly to take our Radio 3 broadcast off air. Even though additional security was in place, no precautions can prevent vocal disruption of public events. Of course it was a difficult evening in many ways, but I am pleased that the capacity audience was able to enjoy the playing of the IPO in the complete programme and that Radio 3 listeners will be able to hear the second half of the concert in the repeat broadcast next Wednesday at 2.30.

After the audience noise at the start of the Bruch Concerto Gil Shaham went on to give a marvellous performance of the work and our audience will be able to hear his Bach encore which was rapturously received, as was the orchestra's Prokofiev encore which will also be broadcast next week.

I have answered questions about the arena fountain in my Q and As and explained the reasons behind its disappearance this year.

For every aspect of the Proms we carry out a review after the festival has finished and the fountain issue will form part of that discussion. I have received a petition asking for its reinstatement which has around 400 signatures on it and I gather that there are now more names. I have made it clear that I would rather have audience members not turned away for lack of space than take up that space with a fountain. The organisers of the petition have helpfully let me know that it is not the fountain itself that is the issue but the lack of seats that were round it. So we will think about that concern and no doubt have wider consultation to see what we might do next year.

Of course having such large crowds at so many Proms is a good problem to have.

I am often asked if particular Proms performances will be made available commercially. Sadly the lack of the necessary performers' rights usually prevent such commercial releases. However I am pleased to let you know that the much discussed performance of the Havergal Brian Gothic Symphony on the first Sunday of the Proms will be released as a CD recording.

That first weekend seems like a lifetime away already and the start of the 2012 Proms is only ten months in the future. The planning never stops.

Roger Wright is Controller of Radio 3 and Director of BBC Proms


  • Comment number 1.

    I am not sure whether the release of a recording of the Prom Performance of Havergal Brian's 'Gothic Symphony' will be a good, or bad, thing. Given the appalling degree of dynamic compression applied to all transmission modes at the time of the performance, I would be very wary of purchasing such a pig in a poke. Can it possibly be the the dynamic compression was intended to encourage purchase of a version without such jiggery-pokery at a later date?

    Many thanks for putting it on at the Proms anyway.

  • Comment number 2.

    Oops, apologies for the typo The relevant phrase should read "Can it possibly be that the dynamic compression ... ".

  • Comment number 3.

    A good point, Nethersage. The quality of sound of the Proms broadcasts seems to have been rather variable this year, to say the least. Unfortunately, it seems that for various technical reasons it's not possible for the originator of a blog entry to respond to comments, so we may never know the answer to your question.

    I was heartened the other day when I switched on just after the start of the Bruch concerto by the quality of the sound and I also I marvelled at how quiet the audience was. Sadly, it turned out to be a CD. I do hope the BBC allows the rest of us to hear the actual performance sometime as opposed to just the encore, especially as those who were present tell us it was rather good.

  • Comment number 4.

    I forgot to echo Nethersage's thanks for putting it on at the Proms. Well done!

  • Comment number 5.

    How is it possible that tonight's Prom (5 September) features the very same soloist, playing the very same piece that the Proms presented on 9/11, and yet, despite devoting the entire interval to a pre-recorded feature on 9/11 which made no reference to the Proms - this evening's broadcast made no mention whatsoever of the extraordinary circumstances under which Helene Grimaud made her Proms debut - 10 years ago on 9/11 - playing the Beethoven 4th concerto? This is extraordinary. I, and all the others, who chose to spend the evening of 9/11 at the Proms (then only 2:30pm in New York), rather than gathered around a television screen made, I believe, a statement about the importance of music in our world. (Maestro Eschenbach mentioned this in his remarks that evening). And yet the Proms itself seems to have amnesia about this important event in Proms history. Miss Grimaud was interviewed at length this evening about many things; but no mention at all was made of her having played the very same piece she spoke so movingly about at the Proms on 9/11. What gives? Yes, the Proms was criticized for proceeding with the concert on the day; but they made the right decision. Are they, who can be so easily bullied by anti-Semites that they will abandon a Proms BBC broadcast at the hint of trouble, ashamed of their 9/11 Proms now?

  • Comment number 6.

    I go back to the days when not all Proms were actually broadcast, and the then Third Programme did relays live from Glyndebourne and the Edinburgh Festival - so (in, as I seem to recall, sometimes more in theory than practice) there was the chance to hear Callas, and Furtwangler, and Solomon, and Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic, not to mention Barbirolli and the Halle in the (then not much more often performed than the Gothic Symphony is now) Mahler Ninth. I can just about take the modern wall to wall and floor to ceiling Prom weeks when not a single half hour of daytime Radio Three goes by without a plug for them, or a disc chosen to promote them - though the returns for this concentrated and self-satisfied sales drive can't be quantified. But when I find that the first production of "Die Frau ohne Schatten" in the UK for what must be nearly 40 years has taken place and there is no indication that Radio Three might even broadcast a recording of it I do feel more than some slight nostalgia for even the pre-Glock days. When is some sustainable balance going to return?

  • Comment number 7.

    This year I have been to some amazing and unforgettable proms including the Simon Bolivar SO, the incomparable Susan Graham with the Gustav Mahler JO and Sir Colin Davies, Nigel Kennedy, the LSO playing two Prokofiev symphonies. For the first time I went to the Last Night and this was rather disappointing. The programming was bizarre, just inappropriate: the Maxwell Davies piece was a mess; the Bartok piece was a strange choice; but why on earth was the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra included in a programme for adults who have just spent the last 6 weeks listening to concerts (if not the rest of their lives? Bit late to introduce the instruments on the last night. Fortunately, Susan Bullock and Lang Lang saved the day. The Grainger song was lovely too.

  • Comment number 8.

    Can I make an appeal for more operas to be performed in the Proms as semi-staged. The Glyndebourne "Rinaldo" worked really well with very few props, but "Der Freischutz" suffered because all the characters were strung out in the narrow space between the orchestra and the arena.

    I would also like to support DameJudy's comment about the Peter Maxwell Davies piece on the last night. There were people coming down the queue handing out photocopied sheets of what the Promenaders were to sing and the so-called rehearsal started at a time when only some of the season ticket holders had actually reached the arena, owing to delays caused by the need to search bags.

    Had you devoted the Proms Plus Sing event to being a rehearsal for this work and notified the Promenaders of this in advance, you might have achieved a better result.

  • Comment number 9.

    I didn't realise the audience was supposed to join in THAT bit! How on earth would we have worked out the tune? Some of the time it sounded like there were two pieces going on at the same time.


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