A couple of recent articles on the current state of Radio 3:
David Self in the Telegraph laments the almost complete departure of live music from R3’s schedules, and echoes concerns heard elsewhere that such a course will damage Radio 3, perhaps irrevocably, in the long term:
Radio 3 managers may blame financial pressures for this move. Agreed, a live outside broadcast demands some 15 technicians and engineers, a technical rehearsal and travelling expenses for a staff announcer. To record a concert may need only a couple of engineers and some studio time to “polish” what they have recorded. Tragically, the skills needed to balance microphones for the various sections of a large choir or orchestra will soon be lost. This short-termism is a supreme example of the BBC shooting itself not only in the foot but the heart.
If the station is abandoning its commitment to live concerts, music lovers are entitled to be worried about other aspects of that “rich musical life” that are also put under threat by this decision. For Radio 3 is not just a broadcaster of music, it is a patron, too. What, for instance, will happen to the many new works it commissions each year for broadcast in its live concerts? Are they to be quietly abandoned? If they are, then it’s not just our musical present that is being denuded, but our future, too.
And what about the BBC’s six in-house performing groups? The Welsh and Scottish Orchestras are not under Wright’s control, so are safe. The Symphony Orchestra is required for the Proms, and the Concert Orchestra actually makes money for the Corporation, so they presumably are safe for the time being. But I wouldn’t over-estimate the life expectancy of the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic or the prestigious BBC Singers. Without regular broadcast work, there is little justification for their existence.
And Norman Lebrecht in La Scena musicale despairs at the ‘Tchaikovsky experience’ bloating the schedules all this week. I think he sells Tchaikovsky short (“What you hear in Tchaikovsky is what you get: there is no message”) as a composer of depth, but his central thrust is right: such gorges on a single composer, stripped of all context, nuance, critical judgement; mindlessly consuming hours and hours of music for no other reason than it’s by Tchaikovsky (no matter how poor some of that music might in fact be) … well there’s a term for this, it begins with P and ends with ornography.
Update: Guardian blogger Stanley Wells takes a completely opposite view – “There is much to be said for a week-long intensive survey of one or two composers’ outputs. … But I’m not sure that the pairing of Tchaikovsky with Stravinsky was wise. Indeed I’m far from sure that I want to hear all of Stravinsky’s music, ever.”