The Proms: live v. televised

20th July 2010 | Concerts, Daily Life, Musings | 3 comments

We went to the First Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall on Friday. Thanks to kind friends who invited us, we had wonderful seats and good company. The Albert Hall was packed full of enthusiastic listeners plus the 500 performers needed for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony. It was a colourful, vivacious scene and we revelled in the First Night atmosphere. But the famously muffled acoustics of the Albert Hall made it hard to hear the performers in any detail. They seemed small and far away, even when we could see them straining to produce a big sound.

The following night we stayed home and watched the second Prom, this time on television. The marvellous Bryn Terfel was singing the role of Hans Sachs in Wagner’s ‘Meistersinger’. It was far easier to hear and see properly, and because of the BBC’s recording skills we almost forgot that the performance was being relayed from the very same hall whose acoustics we had deprecated the day before. Without television, we would have missed the play of emotions on Terfel’s expressive face and the fascinating detail of his singing. How ironic that a televised performance should be more satisfying than a live one!


  1. Nigel D

    I felt exactly the same last night listening to Maria Pires playing Chopin Nocturnes. Beautiful sound quality thanks to radio 3. I’m sure it would have been less intimate and dreamlike actually being there in a huge hall with 5,000 people. In my sitting room though it was just wonderful. Did you happen to hear her Susan?

    Talking of poor acoustic, I tried to listen to Beethoven’s ninth at StPauls cathedral a coupe of weeks ago with John Elliot Gardiner conducting the LSO. I left after the first movement. Totally impossible listening given the reverberation. A wonderful building but I wouldn’t pay to listen to a full orchestra in there again.

  2. Mike B

    (Just returned from hols so this is a bit late)

    I was at the Albert Hall for the British premiere of Mahler’s 8th, circa 1960, conducted by Jascha Horenstein.

    As we used to have Proper Concerts in those days, it wasn’t the only item on the program!

  3. Beverly Woodward

    My experience with the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series is somewhat different. The photography is excellent and one does get all sorts of wonderful close-up shots. The sound, though, is better if one is sitting in a seat at the Met itself. (This is reassuring, given the price of the tickets!)

    Beverly Woodward


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