A scene from My Fair Lady at the Proms. Photo: Chris Christodoulou/BBC
Greetings Proms fans, here we go again! At last a comfy seat indoors (no more mud and rain) and a summer of fabulous concerts. A journalist asked me the other day, 'How do you choose which concerts to put on TV?' I don’t choose them on my own – but if I did I would put them all on TV! We haven’t found a way of affording all 80, so around 26 seems to be the magic number. For TV we spend hours debating the choices with the Proms team and the channel controllers. The main aim is to create a regular pattern for BBC Four on Thursday and Friday nights, and BBC Two on Saturdays, so the audience knows when they are on and where to find them, as well as of course live every night on Radio 3. I was lying on the sofa last night getting over a horrible cough, listening to the Prom on Radio 3, and I thought in a way it’s a good thing that they aren’t all on TV. Sometimes it’s great just to listen to music and make your own pictures.
This year there is a new gadget, not in the Royal Albert Hall, but on my phone - the BBC iPlayer app. Finally, the proms are portable! I must confess that I am now watching TV and listening to radio everywhere I go. Yesterday I was walking out of Shepherd’s Bush tube station on the way to work, watching TV on my phone, sporting my smart new headphones (bit of an indulgence ... well, it has been raining a lot) on the way to work and crashed into a scaffolding barrier and nearly broke my kneecap. That’ll teach me! Seriously though, iPlayer app, my hot tip. Proms anytime, any place. Perfection.
The first week of the Proms immediately set out the stall for the broad range of music ahead: new compositions from Mark Anthony Turnage and Kaija Saariaho, a first night of British composers, Delius, Elgar and Tippett (still on the iPlayer if you missed it) and of course the magnificent My Fair Lady on Saturday night. I am so upset that we were not granted the rights to film it - I know how much the audience wanted to see it. John Wilson pops up again though on 27 August with The Broadway Sound, and we are definitely filming it. I listened to My Fair Lady standing in a field at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk – iPlayer app to the rescue again.
The other big excitement this week is Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performing all nine Beethoven symphonies. DB has devoted his life to performing Beethoven, so I am very much looking forward to these performances. I’ve had a sneak preview because Michael Waldman and Peter Dale have made a new documentary, 'Barenboim on Beethoven, 9 Symphonies that changed the world' to be broadcast on BBC Two on Saturday 28 July. The film is full not only of DB’s mesmerising insights into the music, my favourite one being how the biography is in the music – and then he tells us why - but also fascinating contributions from Tom Service and the musicians in the orchestra, as we follow them across the world in Korea, Spain and Beijing.
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