Proms leak: BBC plan concerts in empty Albert Hall

Proms leak: BBC plan concerts in empty Albert Hall


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2020

We hear that BBC contingency planning for saving the Proms is 2 weeks in an empty Royal Albert Hall and 2 weeks with a minimal audience, all televised.

It’s a last-gasp solution, and few believe it will work.

First, judging by Germany alone, it is unlikely that any places of entertainment will eb allowed to open before mid-September, earliest.

Second, last week’s empty-hall concerts in Germany were judged a failure: uninspiring to audiences, dispiriting for musicians.

Third, the BBC has no original plan for filtering its own musicians and camera crews into the hall and distancing them once inside. If one person catches Covid, the enterprise will blow up sky-high. It’s not worth the risk.

The Proms have given no indication when a final decision will be made, but the plans that have been leaked to Slipped Disc do not inspire confidence.



  • Ben says:

    “last week’s empty-hall concerts in Germany were judged a failure” – Judged by whom? Just because you didn’t like them, you can’t automatically assume that other viewers share that sentiment and state it as fact. Many viewers, musicians and reviewers gave very positive feedback after those concerts. Obviously, it’s not as good a regular concert experience, but it’s infinitely better than having no concert at all.

  • Ron Swanson says:

    The arts minister has to explain why in the time of extreme economic pressure the government has to fund orchestras. If you told Rishi Sunak , who is currently paying the wages of 50% of the adult population of working age, that you can’t hold concerts because they don’t produce sufficient catharsis what response you would get. I strongly suspect the reply would not be printable. The classical world is facing a crisis. It is going to have to show something for continued funding. Governments and businesses are not in the position to give away free money with nothing to show for it. Letting the demand for perfection get in the way of possible will see the bankruptcy of the majority of classical world.

    • Jan Kaznowski says:

      Has anybody seen what the full 2020 Proms season would have looked like ? It’s usually quite fun because it’s shrouded in mystery till the day of release. Mitsuko Uchida accidentally let slip that she was doing a late night Diabelli and I suppose there was to have been a lot of Beethoven at 250

      • Anarhimik says:

        For sure there will be (would have been) two concerts by Berliner Philharmoniker with K. Petrenko judging by their website

      • pjl says:

        and in the BERLIN PHILHARMONIC SCHEDULE you can see their 2 concerts planned for the Proms

      • Hilary says:

        That could surely go ahead as it’s solo piano, and I assume no page turner.

        An organ recital would also be acceptable as it’s the most socially distanced instrument of them all.

        Looking forward to seeing what the re configured 2021 season looks like.

      • Anarhimik says:

        Another planned event is a concert performance of Kurtag’s opera Fin de partie by Dutch Radio orchestra and Marcus Stenz

  • sam says:

    Concert halls have become glorified TV studios, the Elbphilharmonie being the worst, a 900€ million sound stage.

    China is now filled with them, with no touring foreign orchestras going there, they are ghost halls like their ghost towns.

    Ozymandias of the 21st century.

  • Rob says:

    Each concert will consist of one piece.

    John Cage’s 4′33″ played twenty eight times on a pianola. No interval.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    So how do we get in without rubbing shoulders with a few other people. What about the loos? Buying a programme and an ice cream or a drink? The place holds 6,000 without seats in stalls so the prommers could be put in squares separated from each other but the rest of us would be scattered around and what about the musicians? The stage isn’t large enough to scatter musicians in some of the larger orchestras, the sound would be awful.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Social distancing won’t last forever. It is likely that it won’t really be needed sometime in the Autumn in the worst hit places. Perhaps the Proms will be a little early for the full relaxation, but it may have relaxed enough for a small audience by September.

  • Patrick says:

    I really disagree with the statement that last week’s empty hall concerts were a failure. I think it would just send out an important signal for the morale of everybody if at least *something*, however imperfect, went ahead.

  • tomtom says:

    A string quartet or similar small chamber group could quite easily perform whilst adhering to the distancing rules. 2 metres apart is not a vast distance for chamber players.

    • Leo Doherty says:

      One metre is WHO advice and UK might go back to that?

      • Saxon Broken says:

        If you are going to socially distance, then it really needs to be 2m or more to get good results (the extra metre makes a big difference). However, socially distancing is not something that we will need to do for ever, and the benefits of social distancing a likely to be small by the end of the summer.

  • Bruce says:

    “Second, last week’s empty-hall concerts in Germany were judged a failure: uninspiring to audiences, dispiriting for musicians.”

    Were they?

  • Jack says:

    I applaud their attempt to keep alive a very long tradition. Of course it won’t be as exciting as it would be with Albert Hall filled to the rafters, but we live in an age when great art can be delivered around the world through the Internet and various other media. I think it’s wonderful that they are going to try to carry this forward.

    It could be that we’re facing years of this kind of separation and the sooner performing arts entities start trying things that might work, all the better.

    Bravo, BBC

  • Leo Doherty says:

    Daniel Hope’s chamber concerts from his Berlin living room are brilliant. On Arte Classical online.

  • Dave says:

    Can we please praise those brave few making an effort to make some music/work for musicians, instead of poopooing from your furloughed couches?

    • The Real Dave says:

      I’m not sure what level of bravery applies to administrators trying to organise concerts in the face of common sense. Surely the brave ones will be those who have to perform on the day – and meet to rehearse beforehand, unless it’s all going to be a scratch gig(?).

      Sorry, Mr Pickard and friends, but “the show must go on” is a dubious mantra at this time.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        It really is a very low risk activity. You do need to grasp that the Covid-19 virus is only mildly dangerous. Probably over 2 million people in London have already caught it. A rather small proportion of them became seriously ill.

  • MacroV says:

    “Were judged a failure.” Good use of passive voice; can’t attribute judging to anyone else, except himself.

    Maybe the Berlin Phil might be willing to disclose how many people watched it on the DCH (and I assume some people watched it on tv).

  • Bored Muso says:

    Silly auntie beeb!…..
    And totally disrespectful (and dangerous!), to the musicians, TV crews and RAH staff……
    Irresponsible for Beeb to even contemplate this plan.
    Why don’t they simply televise as many previous year’s TV proms as they have in the cupboard??
    Oh, maybe they would then have to pay residual fees to the performers…. silly me….

    • Saxon Broken says:

      You seem to have spent too much time alone at home scaring yourself witless over the virus. It really is only mildly dangerous. The main risk is to those with serious health conditions (and of spreading it to such people).