To the First Night of the Proms last night, courtesy of some kind friends who had rented a box in the Royal Albert Hall. Benjamin Grosvenor, an excellent young British pianist who has only just turned 19, played Liszt’s second piano concerto with great finesse and composure. Alas, the famously difficult acoustics of the Albert Hall withheld some of the detail from me, but just watching the pianist’s clever hands was illuminating.
Less enjoyable was the large BBC camera, with cameraman seated at it, which spent the evening gliding rapidly across the stalls between the front row of the audience and the orchestra. During the piano concerto I was particularly aware of it because the pianist was seated so close to the edge of the stage, and I couldn’t help imagining how that large TV camera must be looming in and out of his peripheral vision as it sped to and fro, sometimes swinging round to focus on his hands. I wondered whether the pianist had known in advance that there would be such a distraction, and whether he had had any chance to practise getting used to it before the concert. At the interval, talk was as much about the camera as about the performance, surely a sign that the camerawork was intrusive.