Saturday, June 06, 2009

Kenning the London scene?

I remember, during my long-ago days as editor of the ill-fated Classical Piano magazine, being occasionally accosted by amateur PRs telling me that I was mad to miss a unique opportunity to interview some pianist or other with a name like Victori Eludesmi and that this piece of neglect meant that they could do my job much better than me. I'm not saying they couldn't, of course - assuming you gave them a modicum of literacy - but is insulting people a sensible way to persuade them they should do what you want them to do? Needless to say, Mr Eludesmi eluded me, and everyone else, most satisfactorily and has never been heard of since.

So I've spent the last few hours gasping speechless over the complete idiocy with which a highly distinguished film director has written about what he perceives to be London's musical scene. Meet Ken Russell, providing a guest editorial at

Tommy Pearson has got to this already over at One More Take and I agree with absolutely everything he says [aside - I can't comment on the Britain's Got Talent bit because I couldn't watch the final, I had to wash my hair...].

The tract reads as if Ken has not been to a concert in decades, and has never heard of Valery Gergiev let alone Kurt Masur, Vladimir Jurowski or even Daniel Harding ("accommodating, appeasing, conciliatory, compatible, deferential, negotiable, obsequious, servile, subservient and pusillanimous..." - er, no, Ken, noooooo...).

As for filling concert programmes with B-list Britclassics - aha. Now I understand: what Ken is really trying to do is champion neglected British music, and bring back Klemperer at the same time. But since the first task is difficult and the second impossible, how does his persuasion technique match up?

Well, having slagged off the conductors, he then slags off the orchestras. Since I see daily at close quarters every ounce of the hard work, dedication, anxiety, professionalism, adrenalin and so on that go into concerts by the major London orchestras, I think I'm well-placed to say that his comments are baloney. Sloppy? Lazy?!? Besides, if they're so sloppy, lazy and badly conducted, why does he want them to play the difficult British music he loves in any case?

I have a suggestion: for one of those reality TV shows, Ken and my LPO violinist hubby Tom should switch places. I'd like to see Ken follow for even a fortnight the schedules, pressures and performing standards Tom has lived under for the past 22 years. And no doubt Tom also thinks he could make a damn good musical documentary in which his favourite actresses take off all their clothes.

Champion neglected British music by all means - but not by insulting the very people you'd like to play it!