After rejoicing that the BBC had improved its ‘Young Musician of the Year’ coverage so markedly in 2010, I had to grind my teeth with annoyance as I watched the ‘Eurovision Young Musicians 2010’ competition on BBC4 this evening. The young musicians were tremendous, but the presentation was horribly bland. Fifteen semi-finalists were whittled down to seven finalists in the blink of an eye. I was disappointed and puzzled that the UK’s representative, 14-year-old trombonist Peter Moore, wasn’t a finalist. I think he’s very special.
The setting for the final was, inexplicably, an outdoor ‘performance shell’ in Vienna’s Rathausplatz. The seven finalists were allowed 7 minutes each (at least, this is all we heard on TV), and each devoted their 7 minutes to a fast concerto movement. Because the city square is so huge, the performances were amplified. But the sound coverage was inadequate; we saw the performers in close-up, but their sound seemed small and distant. It was clear that conductor and orchestra couldn’t hear the soloists properly either – at any rate, this was the kindest explanation for all the lapses in co-ordination. And for some extraordinary reason, the young Russian pianist had to play with the piano on the conductor’s right, with the piano lid removed and the piano facing the other way from usual, so that the pianist’s left hand was closest to the audience. It must have been very disconcerting for him.
Perhaps the open-air presentation, similar to that of the ‘Proms in the Park’, was designed to do away with the supposed stuffiness of the traditional concert hall. But they were in Vienna, whose concert halls are a joy to behold. What a waste of an opportunity for these fine young players to perform in the Musikverein or the Konzerthaus! I can’t deny that the thousands-strong audience outside in the Rathausplatz cheered everyone warmly. But their applause seemed identical for each performance. Who could blame them? With such poor sound coverage and such brief glimpses of each player, it was impossible to judge between them. And how much could the judges hear? At the end, I felt strangely uninvolved in– an unusual feeling for me. In fact, the winner was a delightful young flautist, from Slovenia. I look forward to hearing her and the other young musicians in better circumstances.