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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

Prom fever



As I live in England, I have the same opportunity as anybody else within range of the BBC transmitters to indulge in the unique procession of orchestral music that constitutes the BBC Promenade Concert season each summer. It gets better each year, not least in the range of European and other orchestras invited to give one or two concerts, usually under their principal conductor. Premières are numerous, both of new music and for new soloists. The sheer magnitude of this operation is enormous and the number of concertgoers likewise.

We British are temperamentally unsuited to sensation, which probably accounts for the fact that we don't make a great fuss to our friends overseas about the Proms. This procession of concerts has long been a yearly event and we can hardly expect music lovers worldwide to keep up with the statistics. But let us UK dwellers be honest about our comfortable absorption of startling facts. I believe that in most countries concertgoers would be overwhelmed if a comparable musical jamboree was established and every concert broadcast, and some televised as well.

I have for some years made a habit of listening to at least a part of most of the Proms over the radio, always sensing a rare spirit, sometimes elusive, of enthusiasm that ferments at the end of each piece, not ignoring the tumultuous welcome for obvious favourites. The young Chinese pianist Lang Lang a few days ago received one of the most rapturous and prolonged ovations I've ever heard for Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto. Prom audiences are vociferous when some aspect of musicmaking moves them.

But to my great pleasure I have observed that new music, from both established composers and those on the edge of their careers, is received today with much greater understanding of the fact that each is a journey in new territory and deserving of sympatheric understanding. For the lucky composers selected it is an exciting challenge which reaches a vast audience of both concertgoers and radio listeners.

At least overseas readers can explore the Proms website ...


Copyright © 6 September 2001 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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