Jeopardy

Music One of the elements I have enjoyed throughout the Proms season is the unexpected levels of potential jeopardy throughout. Not in the Irwin Allen sense of the word though -- more in an unexpected happening leading to human derailment. BBC Four’s presentation of last night’s Prom 40 brought the further interval adventures of presenter Angellica Bell in which she dried totally during the weird quote reading which has been brought in to replace the now defunct Promundrum (which still isn't a real world, despite this blog being the top result in a Google search for it). Having been handed the floor by Verity Sharp (putting in a rare tv appearance now that The Culture Show gig has been invaded by Lauren Don’t Falter Laverne) she burst into some material about Mahler but then forgot what she was going to say; the director cut to a presentation slide and you could hear whispering a quick thank you to someone obviously passing her a prompt card. Bless Angellica Bell, bless her.

She redeemed herself later though -- the expected guest, Tenor Matthias Goerne (who looked to be in obvious pain from a torn ligament whilst singing said Mahler) called in sick and Bell had to improvise an interview with a music teacher who revealed herself to be married to one of the experts in the box. Angelica was a bit more relaxed and even as the chat strayed away from anything related to the show and into what this lady’s teaching career entailed (examining mostly) kept things never less than interesting and actually let the interviewee speak (which is rare thing in broadcasting lately) -- although that could just have been a time stretching strategy. She wasn't on tonight and it just wasn't the same.

Tonight’s Prom 41 brought jeopardy of another kind. The presentation of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was augmented by an appearance by the Marcus Roberts Trio who noodled away in the solo sections. Of all the works in all the Proms, this is the one with which I’m most familiar -- I’ve a copy of the soundtrack album to Woody Allen’s Manhattan and I’ve heard that version (recorded by the New York Philharmonic) hundreds of times in the past decade. I can whistle bits and pieces back to front. But to hear it live, with Roberts and co introducing totally new sounds made it something unfamiliar again and therefore fresh. The jeopardy was -- could the symphonic and jazz sections collaborate? Most of the time, they could.

Some of the orchestra players seemed a bit pensive during the solos, almost desperate to begin playing again and when they were playing, the piano improv did get drowned out somewhat (although that might have had something to do with the BBC’s sound balance than what was happening in the hall). But my favourite moment was when the camera found a position in which the face of conductor Robert Spano could be seen in the shiny surface of the Steinway piano as Roberts’s fingers danced across the keyboard, obviously enjoying every minute. Then, just as the trio were getting ready for their solo, the congratulatory flower person arrived with the bouquets and tried to hand one to the bassist, instrument in hand, just as he was about to play, distracting everything. Jeopardy.

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