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More about filming at concerts: Noseda and Fleming at the Proms
- viewing on TV at home and from the Choir seats at the Albert Hall

Efforts to solve computer glitches prevented us from attending the second of The BBC Philharmonic's two Proms, down to London from Manchester with their admired chief conductor Gianandrea Noseda.  A magnificent concert it was, juxtaposing Britten's stunning, ever fresh Sinfonia da Requiem with Mahler's 10th orchestrated by Deryck Cooke.

Both were televised, providing an opportunity to return to the ever vexed question of how best to film orchestral performances. There can never be a settled answer as TV is aimed towards a broader audience than that for BBC Radio 3, one that is used to constant camera movement in films.  Picture quality is superb and the (very frequent) switches of viewpoint and focus were expertly managed. But for many of us the excessive reliance on extreme close-ups – down to parts of a single instruments – and constant changes of viewpoint is a distraction; redundant in terms of information relevant to the work as a whole, as well as conflicting with the sound image.

Obviously to see a bassoonist blowing into his tube, or fingers pressing keys on a horn, does help some people identify the sounds of instruments with which they are not over-familiar, and it is always nice to see the faces of individual orchestral players and, for some of us, exactly what the lady players are wearing… But the danger is that it induces thoughts to wander away from the music.

Of course, that happens to many of us in the concert hall too, but at least there is a concordance between what we see and hear from a fixed point, even though that is often less vivid and detailed than what is brought into the home. 

The general views of the orchestra shown were fine (and the men's summer white jackets a welcome change from prevailing black uniforms at classical concerts) but the picture was spoilt by the naff mauve-purple lighting of the background behind them. The brief interchanges with composer Robert Saxton and of the Royal College of Music were pertinent and helpful, and the short interview with Noseda, recorded during rehearsal, gave a good feeling of the developing relationship with the BBC players – symphonic music in Manchester is on a high with the BBC Phil and the Halle in friendly rivalry. 

The Mahler 10 performance seemed to be an exceptional one, and the feeling of the music, with its kaleidoscopic changes of mood, took over to an extent which often does not happen watching the Proms at home. 

As I type, I am hearing Renee Fleming singing Korngold* at the previous night's Prom on the BBC Listen Again service to. We saw most of that concert too on TV, a less satisfying experience; close-ups of Renee Fleming past her first youth were unkind, and the Schumann symphony oddly unengaging.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Serena Fenwick adds:

*“close-ups of Renee Fleming past her first youth were unkind”

No such problems from a seat on the outer edge of the choir block, from where she was seen in profile, and her remarkable voice, undiminished in its glory, could be fully appreciated.  That having been said, her reading of the Berg songs was perhaps a little detached and clinical to suit all tastes.  Her words told us of summer nights, moonlit landscapes, and flowers but it was the quiet perfection of the nightingale that her voice portrayed and “through its sweet sounds” allowed her audience to conjure the images for themselves. [q.v. Matthew Rye in The Telegraph]

The 50th anniversary of Korngold's death prompted the inclusion of arias from his last two operas.   Written in a style that was already by then regarded as old fashioned, both achieved only modestly transient success (although Heliane triggered sufficient popularity for a tobacco manufacturer to name brands of the cigarettes after the leading characters).    Renee Fleming is justifiably renowned for her interpretations of the heroines of Richard Strauss, and in this heady and sumptuously orchestrated atmosphere she was fully in her element revealing all that supreme artistry.   Both arias are in essence laments for lost love, and emotions ran high as Fleming sang with almost unbearable sweetness.   Both my companions and I found ourselves fumbling for handkerchiefs – a concert well worth attending for those few moments alone!

Photo credit Andrew Eccles