Friday, September 11, 2015

Where's Leeds?

Dame Fanny Waterman with the 2015 finalists
I know, I know, about 200 miles up the M1... It's also - partly - on Radio 3. But in a world where the Tchaikovsky Competition live-streamed absolutely everything, and so will the fast-approaching Chopin Competition (you can follow it here, courtesy of the Chopin Institute, Warsaw), and the Rubinstein Competition in which Trifonov took part is alive and well and living on Youtube, and plenty more, the once mighty Leeds International Piano Competition is being kicked into the long grass for lack of such resources.

Once upon a time we used to see the finals live on BBC TV. Now we get edited highlights on the radio - bits and pieces, essentially - and...this is what the website says:

Through our partnership with BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four, audiences will be given the opportunity to watch the finalists of the Competition performing from Leeds Town Hall on Friday 17th & 24th September, and Friday 1st October. If you cannot wait until then, you are able to hear the full semi finals via Radio 3 online player for the next 30 days. 

But the finals are...tomorrow and the day after.

Last time, the Leeds produced two genuine rising stars in 1st and 2nd place - Federico Colli and Louis Schwizgebel. Louis was snapped up by the BBC New Generation Artists scheme; Federico gave a QEH debut recital that drew 5-star rave reviews from virtually every critic in town (including me). Plenty of great pianists have taken vital steps into the public eye via the Leeds. But now we may have to wait a while to find out whether there's anybody comparable.

It is all about money, of course. Live-streaming costs ££s. But it does seem that the UK's most prestigious music competition has been relegated to a level of assumed interest that lags far behind the TV spectacle of people baking cakes and watching paint dry.

Step up, philanthropists. We know you're out there. We have our spies in the City who tell us that there is more money sloshing around in certain bank accounts in this country than they would ever have believed possible. It's become all too clear in the last 30-odd years that there is really no such thing as a financial "trickle down". But there is such a thing as "winkle out". It takes skilled fundraisers to do the winkling. Perhaps when Leeds's new directors take over from the great Dame Fanny Waterman - they are the double-act of pianist Paul Lewis and BBC producer/New Generations head Adam Gatehouse - their first move should be to appoint a Head of Winkling whose first task will be to raise enough funds to live-stream the next competition complete. This is in no way to denigrate the tough work that no doubt goes on in the contest's fundraising department already - it's tough work and I take my hat off to those who are good at it - but I personally would love to see priority being given to developing Internet capabilities and it really has not happened this time.

Here is the full programme for the Leeds final. Three Rachmaninov concertos, including two performances of No.3. A spot of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. Looks like business as usual.

Meanwhile, the first night of the finals clashes with the Last Night of the Proms. Great...