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.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • 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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before