David Lister: Sadly all the noise is about the novelties – not the classics


I have a dream that one day the Proms programme will be announced, and among the headlines the next day will be words like Beethoven, Brahms, Rattle, Barenboim. It's a little fanciful, I know.

The director of the Proms yesterday made much of drum 'n' bass star Goldie, of songs from Bollywood, of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, of MGM musicals. And there's nothing wrong per se with any of that. There was nothing wrong last year either with David Tennant hosting a Doctor Who Prom for children. There was a fair bit wrong the year before with an evening of songs from the musicals by Michael Ball. All these ingredients give a diversity to the world's biggest classical music festival, even if some are truly imaginative and others downright gimmicky.

But as this is the world's biggest classical music festival, why does there seem to be such reluctance to trumpet the glories of classical music? Each year, at least in recent years, the BBC executives who run the Proms make more of the sideshows than the main event. There seems to be a nervousness in the BBC Proms hierarchy about proclaiming the glories, excitement and inclusiveness of classical music.

The increasingly impressive Roger Wright, the Proms director and also head of Radio 3, should have the confidence to challenge this nervousness. His core programming of this year's Proms is excellent: virtuosi such as Gidon Kremer, Lang Lang and Yo Yo Ma, conductors such as Mariss Jansons, Daniel Barenboim, Gergiev and Mehta, some of the world's best orchestras, Stravinsky's complete ballet music, Haydn's Creation, Beethoven's Fidelio and much else.

It doesn't actually need Goldie to make it world-beating, nor even to make it newsworthy. Those who run the Proms should have faith in the Proms and the power of classical music.