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Sue's win - first verdicts from the press recent news 10.09.08

Sue's win - first verdicts from the press

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."

Recent News

  1. More Maestro for Christmas recent news 08.12.08

    More Maestro for Christmas

    A revealing new documentary, Maestro: The Inside Story, will be shown over Christmas.

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  2. Sue takes Hyde Park by Storm recent news 13.09.08

    Sue takes Hyde Park by Storm

    Maestro winner Sue Perkins tonight wowed the 35,000-strong Proms in the Park audience at the Last Night of the Proms.

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  3. Sue's win - first verdicts from the press recent news 10.09.08

    Sue's win - first verdicts from the press

    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.

    Read full story

  4. Congratulations to Sue Perkins! recent news 09.09.08

    Congratulations to Sue Perkins!

    At tonight’s Grand Final, writer and comedienne Sue Perkins emerged from the audience vote to win the BBC’s first ever Maestro competition.

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  5. Vengerov flies in for Final recent news 04.09.08

    Vengerov flies in for Final

    Virtuoso violinist and conductor Maximum Vengerov will replace Simone Young on the panel of judges for the Maestro Final on Tuesday 9 September.

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  6. Dramatic vote saves Jane and Goldie recent news 02.09.08

    Dramatic vote saves Jane and Goldie

    The Maestro series reached new levels of tension as four students faced the orchestra vote.

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  7. Opera stars join Maestro recent news 01.09.08

    Opera stars join Maestro

    Soprano Rebecca Evans and tenor Alfie Boe will join the Maestro show for Episode 4.

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  8. Do Men Hog the Podium? recent news 01.09.08

    Do Men Hog the Podium?

    Will female conductors ever achieve equality? I think they will, says conductor Madeleine Lovell

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  9. Press on 'posh talent show' recent news 01.09.08

    Press on 'posh talent show'

    TV talent shows come in many demographically targeted guises - I commend a different event - Maestro.

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  10. Bradley exits the competition recent news 26.08.08

    Bradley exits the competition

    Bradley Walsh did not survive the BBC Concert Orchestra’s vote this week.

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  11. Behind the scenes recent news 26.08.08

    Behind the scenes

    Maestro viewers have asked about the various musicians who have helped the students in their preparation.

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  12. What the papers said ... recent news 22.08.08

    What the papers said ...

    I watched Maestro (BBC2) mostly because it was there … how wrong could I be because it was riveting.

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  13. Sue's reality check recent news 22.08.08

    Sue's reality check

    Maestro student Sue Perkins posted a thoughtful article in the Guardian newspaper. These are her thoughts on what she has learned

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  14. How Goldie got into Classical recent news 22.08.08

    How Goldie got into Classical

    Ex-grilfriend Bjork had a hand in Goldie’s conversion to classical …

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  15. The Thoughts of Alex and Brad recent news 22.08.08

    The Thoughts of Alex and Brad

    Alex: “The first thing you have to learn as a conductor is how to stand up straight.”

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  16. Lessons learned, by David Soul recent news 21.08.08

    Lessons learned, by David Soul

    Rejected student David Soul bares his … about what he learned from the Maestro experience.

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  17. Second student leaves Maestro recent news 19.08.08

    Second student leaves Maestro

    Following the BBC Concert Orchestra’s vote, Bradley Walsh was saved and David Soul exited the competition.

    Read full story

  18. Don't smile at the brass ... recent news 19.08.08

    Don't smile at the brass ...

    In the run-up to Episode 2, Katie Derham has been finding out how to get an orchestra to do what she wants …

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  19. First student exits Maestro recent news 12.08.08

    First student exits Maestro

    The BBC Concert Orchestra decides who remains in the competition.

    Read full story

  20. How hard can it be? recent news 05.08.08

    How hard can it be?

    Journalist Christopher Middleton visitis the students as they try out their conducting skills on an orchestra of young musicians in a church in London.

    Read full story

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