It seems the majority of the classical music world will likely shun this latest attempt to bring classical music back into the mainstream. I, on the other hand, wish I had a direct satellite feed from Western Canada to the BBC so I could watch every episode of this! I mean, it can't be as bad as NBC's Clash of the Choirs, where celebrity "conductors" worked with "choirs" (I keep both "conductors" and "choirs" in quotations for a reason there - if I could visualize using two fingers on each hand to emphasize the value of the quote sarcasm, I would). I posted about this last reality show earlier, which received the most comments on my blog to date from the half-dozen or so of you who read this regularly.
Here's a few of my observations about the BBC Maestro reality show that will differ significantly from NBC's Clash of the Choirs. First off, it seems that the celebrity conductors are actually going to work with a REAL orchestra, and the winner will conduct at the Proms! They are also going to receive coaching from conductors, or as the Guardian puts it "young conductors" (I wonder how I can apply to be one of the mentors?). Whereas Clash of the Choirs had nothing to do with conductors, or, amazingly enough, Choirs.
The only thing that irks me about the article are the "Reasons" behind the production of this show, which come in the last paragraph:
The BBC insists that both Classical Star and Maestro are vital in their aim of bringing the classical genre to fresh viewers. Of Maestro, a BBC spokesperson said: "This programme is still in the pipeline at present, but if it does go ahead we hope that by following different people's journeys in learning how to conduct, it will succeed in opening up classical music to a completely different audience."
I'm not sure what the obsession is with groups trying to "open up classical music to a completely different audience". There are quite a few great posts about this around, none greater than that of Ron Spieglman's on Sticks and Drones about a month ago. How is a show like this is going to help? If anything, it might put a false sense of reality on what Classical music is all about. Those who watch the show might end up buying tickets to a symphony concert expecting to see a battle on the podium between the second horn and some celebrity conductor, and instead might be treated to a Shostakovitch Symphony - which will no doubt be great, but may not be the thing to bring that person back to another concert. People who enjoy classical music go to concerts. People who don't like classical music, don't go to concerts. It's pretty simple.
I always laugh at the marketing strategy where an audience at a concert is "polled" as to why they came to the concert, and what is it that they enjoyed, or didn't enjoy about the concert in an effort to bring more people to the next concert. It's like polling people at a Star Trek convention about why they are at the convention in an effort to bring people who know nothing about, or don't like Star Trek, to the next convention. You're far better off polling the people who DIDN'T go to the concert and find out why they didn't, and what would bring them to the next concert, although, we probably wouldn't like the answer.
The bigger question is - is classical music really in trouble? Have the average numbers in audiences really dropped drastically across the globe in the last hundred years? I actually don't know the answer to this - but if it has dropped, I'm not convinced this type of programing is going to help it any.
I, however, would be setting my PVR nightly to watch it!