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It would be unfair of me to restrict mention of the BBC Proms this summer to a mere offhanded gibe, particularly since it's an institution well worth supporting (as one is reminded in Britain whenever one turns on the television during prime time in summer and finds a full-blown orchestra concert rather than old CSI reruns).

But it took an editorial in today's Guardian to draw my attention to one of the more worthy features of the Proms Website (and of its live broadcasts, for households properly equipped): Maestrocam, a commentary feature that elucidates the conducting of selected conductors for selected pieces. So far, Sir Charles Mackerras, Vasily Petrenko, Ilan Volkov and Daniel Barenboim have come in for the close-up treatment, and it makes edifying watching. Next up: David Robertson, on August 28th.

The BBC has already done a commendable job of raising the popular understanding of a conductor's job with its reality-TV series Maestro last summer. I initially dismissed this as yet another example of dumbing down (or tarting up) classical music, but on perusal, and despite a certain amount of requisite schtick, it proved to treat the subject with reasonable seriousness. Its value lay in helping communicate to viewers not only how much work is involved in leading an orchestra, but how a listener might begin to evaluate it.

Edited to add: And thus I learn that videos on the BBC website don't work in the U.S. Sorry about that. It is now obvious to all where I've gone on my book leave.

By Anne Midgette  |  August 24, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  festivals , music on the Web  
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Next: In Performance: Covington Quartet


"Not available in your area" is the message I get when I try to play the videos. (I'm in the USA.) Is the BBC still to be considered as a world-class international broadcaster?

Posted by: sporkadelic | August 24, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Yes, sadly few of the BBC's internet video services are available outside the UK. Happily, the BBC's wonderful classical music radio service, Radio 3, can be heard in the US over the internet, though at a much lower bitstream rate, and therefore lower, but still decent, sound quality, than is available to UK internet users. The BBC's reasons for the differences include licensing and cost considerations.

Posted by: ChuckStark | August 24, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

You get what you pay for. We don't pay license fees to the BBC, so why should we get access to their programs? It's not like public or commercial radio... or newspapers for that matter. It is more like trying to watch Hulu overseas.

Nevertheless... for a fee, there are work arounds (albeit illegal):

Posted by: prokaryote | August 24, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

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