Charlotte Higgins, Guardian Culture Blog
"Maestro – in which famous people competed against each other as they learned to become conductors – has been the best piece of classical music programming the BBC has done in ages. OK, so the celebrity-learns-a-skill format is pretty tired, but the reason it worked with Maestro is that there is so much hokum and mystery associated with the art of conducting. And this programme blew it away – in fascinating style.
"On the one hand, there are those who assert conductors do nothing at all. It's pretty easy to see why one would say this. After all, conductors don't actually make a sound. They don't play anything. They wave their arms around and often look pretty poseurish while they are at it. But Maestro, as it showed the frustrations, the struggles and the sheer hard work of the contenders as they slaved away just to get a passable version of a short aria on the road showed just how demanding a task it is. And they weren't looking to put down a definitive recording: they were simply trying to keep the troops together and get one step beyond beating time. Katie Derham storming out in tears when her mentor had pushed her just a little bit too far was one of those TV moments … and of course you could actually hear when they messed up – when Goldie screwed up his Mozart a bit the other week, for instance. Here's the thing: it does actually matter what conductors do.
"But on the other side, Maestro showed how dependent good conducting is on the intangible. On such airy-fairy notions as confidence, charisma, physical presence… and sheer talent. Jane Asher was terrific, a worker, musical, and clearly having enormous fun. And yet when Goldie took to the podium you could see that he had what she didn't … It's hard to articulate: but he just looked like a conductor. His technique was a bit scary, but my god, he believed in the music and he wasn't afraid to show it. He was sweating musicianship from every pore. Sue Perkins, ditto: she also had a fantastic presence, a deeply musical instinct, and a lovely manner. I liked the way that every time she finished a piece she properly thanked the orchestra. Not everyone did that: and yet having a great relationship with musicians is a big part of the conductor's job. Or ought to be. I voted for Sue Perkins but then felt that perhaps Goldie, in terms of sheer, raw talent, was the one."
Henrietta Bredin, The Spectator
"It was the final of Maestro on BBC TV last night and I have been glued to every episode. Despite being extremely wary to begin with at the thought of a bunch of amateurs plunging in to try their hand at something so complex as conducting, a skill that requires years of study to master, I became entirely fascinated by just how much the participants managed to learn and the different ways in which they approached the challenge. They all became more and more serious about it and more entranced by the music they were dealing with. Alex James was the most disarmingly direct with the orchestral players, asking them despairingly how he could make them go faster; Jane Asher applied herself to the task with implacable, intently studious dedication; Goldie disarmed everyone by seeming to be able to do the thing entirely instinctively with unmistakable, innate musicality. And the winner, resoundingly the right choice, was Sue Perkins, who, once she stopped gurning and mugging to camera to hide her nerves revealed herself to be both passionate and hugely accomplished.
"The only major problem with the programmes was that they failed to show anywhere near enough of the process of learning and studying that the competitors went through. That was the interesting part, far more so than the point where they got all tussied up in unsuitable clothing and clambered on to the podium."
A revealing new documentary, Maestro: The Inside Story, will be shown over Christmas.
Maestro winner Sue Perkins tonight wowed the 35,000-strong Proms in the Park audience at the Last Night of the Proms.
Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian’s arts correspondent, was first up with a review of the Maestro Final posted on the Guardian Culture Blog at 9.53 this morning. A Spectator review has also been posted by Henrietta Bredin.
At tonight’s Grand Final, writer and comedienne Sue Perkins emerged from the audience vote to win the BBC’s first ever Maestro competition.
Virtuoso violinist and conductor Maximum Vengerov will replace Simone Young on the panel of judges for the Maestro Final on Tuesday 9 September.
The Maestro series reached new levels of tension as four students faced the orchestra vote.
Soprano Rebecca Evans and tenor Alfie Boe will join the Maestro show for Episode 4.
Will female conductors ever achieve equality? I think they will, says conductor Madeleine Lovell
TV talent shows come in many demographically targeted guises - I commend a different event - Maestro.
Bradley Walsh did not survive the BBC Concert Orchestra’s vote this week.
Maestro viewers have asked about the various musicians who have helped the students in their preparation.
I watched Maestro (BBC2) mostly because it was there … how wrong could I be because it was riveting.
Maestro student Sue Perkins posted a thoughtful article in the Guardian newspaper. These are her thoughts on what she has learned
Ex-grilfriend Bjork had a hand in Goldie’s conversion to classical …
Alex: “The first thing you have to learn as a conductor is how to stand up straight.”
Rejected student David Soul bares his … about what he learned from the Maestro experience.
Following the BBC Concert Orchestra’s vote, Bradley Walsh was saved and David Soul exited the competition.
In the run-up to Episode 2, Katie Derham has been finding out how to get an orchestra to do what she wants …
The BBC Concert Orchestra decides who remains in the competition.
Journalist Christopher Middleton visitis the students as they try out their conducting skills on an orchestra of young musicians in a church in London.
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