Crybabies welcome

Music on TV

While the rest of broadcasting fell into seasonal silliness, televised music flourished. It makes sense: concert life is dormant, the audience is mostly at home. Even families can listen without some vain conductor stopping the show if a baby cries, as in Bill Oddie's recently reported experience.

Luciano Pavarotti's still-splendid Pagliacci (Monday, BBC2) deserved cheering like a veteran footballer on his way to an athletic goal. But it wasn't all operatic blockbusters. It wasn't even the all-male Vienna Philharmonic waltzing away New Year's Day this time (except on Radio 3). Instead, BBC2 carried a recording from July of the mostly male United Nations World Orchestra for Peace in suitably symbolic music by Rossini and Beethoven. Why the UN thought it helpful to splash out on a culturally exclusive display while making a pig's ear of Bosnia is a moot point. But the playing was terrific. Conducted by Sir Georg Solti with a ferocious concentration that would override a whole ward of new-born lungs, this hand-picked group of the world's best players brought a single-minded virtuosity to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

It all gelled, the players said, in two days. That's enough to inspire a New Year resolution: here we are wringing our hands about too many permanent orchestras with too few audiences, while players nowadays have the skills to get it all together in no time. Answer: instead of maintaining expensive institutions for habit's sake, give the musicians some useful work, such as attaching a professional to every town in the land. Then bring them together for the concerts that really need to happen.

Some of the season's music was well hidden, it's true. Who could guess that Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood (Monday, BBC1) centred on a new, 40-minute orchestral score by Paul Patterson, unless they knew about the Dahl Foundation's commissioning policy (or had read Andrew Green's feature on these pages the week before)? The Radio Times carried no credit. Perish the thought that somebody decided a composer's name would deter viewers. Yet this lyrical and witty music (it even had an original Beethoven Five joke) would have deterred nobody, except hard-core modernists. On the contrary, it gave the day's broadcasts a touch of appealing originality that deserved boasting about.

Another musical surprise came with Riverdance: the Show (Sunday, C4). On stage it's famous for the footwork and the principal dancers. The real star, however, turned out to be the traditional music of Ireland. Played or sung with passion and flair, it underpinned the whole performance: now straight and unadorned, now zapped up with extra beats in the bar, now transformed ingeniously into Spanish or jazz variations. And it suggests another resolution. There's a rich source of concert music here. In the Bartok era, folk music was taken out of context and put into classical moulds. Now, creative musicians work the other way around - making extended pieces that grow from traditional forms. Theirs is a contemporary music that can speak to all; we should be encouraging them.

"I know it's Handel," said Dame Joan Sutherland, "but it doesn't have to be sung like a virgin." Notes from a Diva (Sunday, BBC2), billed as her first televised masterclass, was a spin-off from the 1995 Cardiff Singer of the World event in which Sutherland's role was small but by some way the sharpest and the least self-regarding. Tom Krause took up much of the students' short sessions in singing himself. Ileana Cotrubas gave insights into character and drama, yet still imposed herself. "You have to agree!" she concluded. That this chilling line actually got a laugh from the audience is a tribute to her exuberance, but it doesn't say much for anybody else's judgement.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing