The Week in Arts: There are times when a few slips are irrelevant

Share
Related Topics

There can be argument over which has been the best Prom so far this year; but there can be no argument over which was the most emotional. Last Tuesday night Alfred Brendel gave his last Prom. The 73-year-old pianist not only received the predictable standing ovation. He also received a presentation from Proms director Nicholas Kenyon and a speech in his honour.

There can be argument over which has been the best Prom so far this year; but there can be no argument over which was the most emotional. Last Tuesday night Alfred Brendel gave his last Prom. The 73-year-old pianist not only received the predictable standing ovation. He also received a presentation from Proms director Nicholas Kenyon and a speech in his honour.

Brendel's own speech was extremely short: "The Proms are the crowning glory of the British musical life," he said. "There is nothing like them anywhere in the world." That, too, brought the house down. And the audience walked beaming and still buzzing into the pouring rain talking animatedly about the evening they had witnessed.

I too was in a higher state, having enjoyed the unforgettable occasion. So it was sobering to read the critics' reviews. The Independent's critic was not alone in delighting in the occasion but pointing out, sotto voce, that the septuagenarian had "occasional finger slips and... a brief lapse of memory near the start of the third movement." It was clear why the pianist had decided not to perform any more in front of broadcast microphones.

I suspect these slips would have been commented on more prominently and more adversely if it had been a younger pianist or a different occasion. And the highly knowledgeable audience would have made one or two barbs under their umbrellas. But on an occasion such as this slips seemed superfluous, a technical detail, an irrelevance.

Similarly, at the stunning Brian Wilson concerts this summer, the sense of occasion was paramount. Here was a man who had no right to survive mental breakdowns and drug addiction, but was back with a fantastically good backing band and reworkings of his greatest hits. With emotion tangible, who would be so discourteous as to point out that he didn't hit the notes in the first lines of his classic anthem "God Only Knows".

Sometimes a performance becomes an "event." The point of an event is to be there. And, just as the evening has moved beyond a normal arts experience and has become an event, so the critical judgements of the audience have to move beyond the normal aesthetic criteria into event criticism. In event criticism we are so thrilled at seeing the best in the world on evenings laced with emotion and poignancy that we ignore slip-ups and always, always, as an audience give the event five stars. Four for the performance and one for the privilege of being there. It may not be criticism at its purest; but an event is not a pure performance. It's a celebration.

Barring critics from Fringe shows is cuckoo

The one sour note at this year's Edinburgh Fringe has been struck by the production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with the movie star Christian Slater. Critics were barred from the first performances. And one arts writer from The Scotsman, who did sneak in, was told to leave.

So much for the radical, anarchic Fringe. The whole point, I thought, is that everyone is equal and they take their chance. Also, if these performances were officially previews, why were audiences not paying reduced prices?

What is particularly depressing is that the team protecting the actors from the critics are Fringe veterans. The producer is Nica Burns, chair of the Perrier Award judges; the man who runs the Assembly Rooms, where the show is on, is William Burdett Coutts, another estimable veteran of the Fringe. Even the show's PR, Anna Arthur, is a well known face at Edinburgh. It's sad that such stalwarts now see their job as kow-towing to Hollywood stars, rather than protecting the rugged integrity of the Fringe.

¿ It's been striking on the Fringe how many stand-up comedians give their routines a title. Demetri Martin's show is called Spiral Bound; Steve Hughes has a show called At War With Satan; Michael Dwyer's act is entitled Mickey D Has Detention Deficit Disorder; the Irish comedienne Sheila Hamilton has an act named My Granny Was A Leprechaun.

In fact, it's hard to find a stand-up who hasn't given their act a rather inflated title. Why is this, I wonder? Comics used to be content just to have their name on the tickets. Is it because a title makes a stand-up routine sound more like a piece of theatre or performance art? Is it that they are all actors manqué? Never mind; at least they allow the critics in.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Urgently looking for Qualified Teachers and NQT's

£110 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Urgently looking for Qua...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

IT Auditor

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: IT Auditor , Information Governance, NHS...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: heatwave update; duck tape and market socialism

John Rentoul
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

The grand plan of Tory modernisation has failed under an increasingly right-wing David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform