ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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WHEN Live From the Proms goes out on BBC2 this evening, I trust there will be no repeat of what happened the last time the network showed a Prom live, a couple of weeks ago, when the announcer, John Tusa, rather spoilt things by telling us what the encores were going to be. Part of the fun of encores is in identifying them. By all means put us out of our misery and tell us what they were when they are over, but don't do it beforehand. Such announcements shatter the illusion that the encore might just be spontaneous, a spur-of-the-moment fancy on the part of the conductor. The orchestra in question, the St Petersburg Philarmonic, was heard the night before on Radio 3. Did the Radio 3 announcer tell us what the encores would be then? Of course not. They never do. So why did John Tusa do so the following night? And for that matter, what was the managing director of the BBC World Service doing presenting the programme in the first place? I have one last question about encores at the Proms: why is it always the foreign orchestras that give them, never the domestic ones?

BEETHOVEN'S 'Ode to Joy', from the Ninth Symphony, which is a regular fixture at the Proms, will be doubling up as the European Community's theme tune (sorry, anthem) when it is given its 1992 airing tonight. As the idea of European unity becomes something of a joke, this 'potent symbol of universal reconciliation' (to quote the Proms programme) has never seemed less appropriate. Which piece of music from the classical repertoire should Brussels image-makers have chosen? A bottle of champagne to the reader with the best suggestion.

THE British Council - for many a symbol of the august and the highbrow - is suddenly embracing popular culture with a passion. On Thursday in Manchester it launches Football], a self-explanatory title for an exhibition which will tour the world for two years before arriving in the United States, host nation for the 1994 World Cup. Then, in a month's time, the Beatles get the British Council treatment with an exhibition timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the release of 'Love Me Do'. Another blow for the classless society?

I QUOTE from a press release for a restaurant called Opera Terrazza] in Covent Garden, at which it will be possible to have dinner while watching the live relay, on a screen overlooking the piazza, of the Royal Opera House production of Tosca later this month: 'The special Tosca menu will feature a four-course dinner . . . including coffee and half a bottle of champagne per person, and will sell at pounds 55. Italian opera complements the package admirably at the most aptly named restaurant.' It would be easy to be sniffy about this sort of thing. But it wouldn't be wrong.

I AM glad to see that the summer heat has not led readers to become dozy about outrageous CD prices. From Manchester, Andy Fordyce writes that Music Junction (Arndale Centre) is giving an appropriately frosty welcome to the city's new Virgin Megastore with an offer on Top 20 chart CDs ( pounds 9.99, excluding double-play titles, cassettes at pounds 6.99). The prices will apply for at least a month, and the shop hopes to continue undercutting the competition thereafter. The campaign girds its loins next week for a fresh autumn assault, so please keep writing in with your tips and comments. And don't pay full price if you can help it.