#BRISTOLPROMS – Overview {words}

A second outing for the six day classical music festival with an an onus of breaking down the barriers between composition, performer and spectator, Bristol Old Vic and Classic FM’s answer to London’s BBC Proms again brought world class musicians and audio-visual technology together in an intimate and historical setting.

Valentina Lisitsa IV Virtuoso pianists, violinists and the like gave relaxed, insightful introductions and had their finger work and expressions blown up on screens behind them, choral ensembles boomed from dark shadows, and bleeding-edge 21st (and obsolete 18th) century technology re-imagined the way we experienced a program of predominantly chamber-orientated music.

Being largely experimental in its approach there were one or two flat notes amongst the soaring successes, though all being relative these were simply entertaining rather than the standard revelatory. I personally had anticipated more in the way of visual jiggery-pokery but soon found that anything too daring or invasive only detracted from the performance – and that the real value lay in bringing the performer into focus (perhaps a lesson learned at last year’s inaugural, AV-heavy Bristol Proms.)

It is questionable to what degree the Proms reached the new audience it was seeking. For the most part it appeared to be more of an opportunity for the usual suspects to dress down than to usher in fresh faces – I saw few young adults but the world in sandals and socks! But as an outsider myself there were undoubtedly groundbreaking approaches that I took very much for granted. Why shouldn’t classical music be presented in the pitch dark? Aren’t all performances furnished with a preamble on their historical context? How else can you be expected to appreciate the talent and dexterity of a musician from an unassisted remove of 50 feet or more?

Danceroom Spectography IIIFor me the experience proved a real boon. Not only have I had the opportunity to be involved in something cultural outside the daily grind whilst flexing my wasting journalistic muscles, but it has offered me an ‘in’ to the world of classical music. I can now go into a classical music shop, or consider a brochure of upcoming recitals, armed with a short list of composers, works and artists in which I have some small grounding. The Bristol Proms has unhooked and cast aside the velvet rope of classical music appreciation. Now the Old Vic needs to ask itself how, beyond hopefully employing a team of real-time tweeters and bloggers, it can do the same for its wider, intended audience.


Regrettably one or two of my posts have been uploaded to the Old Vic’s Blog out of sequence and without sense-dependent formatting, so I have made a new home for them here at the Crate. This has also afforded me the luxury of a little post-edit where where I got a little carried away without a word count, along with the inclusion of some photographs I took over the course of the week:

Day 1The Erebus Ensemble: Bach in the Dark / Lisa Batiashvili / Will Gregory’s Moog Ensemble

Day 2Jonathan James – Inside the Music: War and Music / Ji Liu: Bach & Cage / The Songs That Went To War

Day 3Jonathan James – Inside the Music: Beethoven’s Visionary Quartets / Sacconi Quartet: Beethoven 132 / Charles Hazelwood’s All Star Collective: A Rainbow in Curved Air with Danceroom Spectroscopy

Day 4Sinfonia Cymru & Tom Morris: Towards a Staged Concert / Daniel Hope: Air – A Baroque Journey / Sinfornia Cymru Unbuttoned

Day 5Jonathan James – Inside the Music: When East Meets West / Avi Avital & Mahan Esfahani / Valentina Lisitsa’s Music Party


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