This series has shattered my faith in UK critics and French TV

This series has shattered my faith in UK critics and French TV


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2020

I share some thoughts on The Critic website about the unintentionally hilarious Channel 4 pseudo-thriller ‘Philharmonia’:

…. I spot the perpetrator with two episodes to go and the rest dwindles out like the last half-hour of Pierre Boulez’s Répons 3, one work of many in which a composer lost his spark.

Disappointed? I was devastated. The lives of orchestral musicians are packed with enough raw drama and humdrum repetition to make a credible story. Like the concertmaster who had jus primae noctis with every female violinist, or the oboist who took a cut of new sponsorship to keep both wife and mistress in style, or the play-away manager who came home from tour to find his clothes strewn all the way down the street. Everyday stuff that makes EastEnders look tame….

Read on here.



  • Alexander says:

    I’ve got a glimpse of your opus. The style you chose for the article I first saw in some glamour magazine ages ago, ”twas a short story named “Yellow tie” , about love and business. I liked that then 😉 Should re-read it later on. Why sex? Was it your next bite for readers or still pondering it every now and then ? (I’m kidding)

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    For goodness’ sake, Norm, it’s only a film – and as such I enjoyed it enormously. (Did you actually watch all six episodes?) Just the thing to take one’s mind off Covid and riots and finding the next food delivery slot. Oh, and as a matter of fact (not always your strong point?), Lina El Arabi, who played Selena Riviere, was born in France of Moroccan parentage: since when were Moroccans ‘Asian’? She also studied violin at a conservatoire, hence the hugely convincing music sequences.

    It’s escapism – you should try it sometime and you’d be a lot less grumpy.

    And wasn’t L’Orchestre National d’Ile-de-France stunning?

  • We privatize your value says:

    At least, they got the looks right (as French people often do): the “cheffe d’orchestre” looks like a cross between Alondra de la Parra and Corinna Niemeyer, with a little sprinkling of Anne-Sophie Mutter on top. Groovy!

    • John Borstlap says:

      I especially appreciate the little sprinkling in this comment. One can never do without it, with conductors.

  • RW2013 says:

    Not even worth watching for some Schadenfreude?

  • William says:

    Super Article!! Some rather brilliant writing there, Maestro! Bravo!

  • Simon A Bird says:

    Come on please. The penultimate sentence of the excerpt. We need names…or at least heavy hints…

    • Anonymous says:

      The events described in the film have been real life happenings!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Not difficult to name names, music life is full of namens connected with – let us say – colourful abberations. It made me think of the shananigans of [redacted] while preparing for a tour of the [redacted] orchestra, when the two harpists [redacted] and [redacted] combined suffering with pleasure; or the love triangle including, of all people, famous conductor [redacted] with [redacted], who would have thought??! and all during rehearsing for the gala at [redacted], the ensuing scandal quite upset the entire city at the time, as can be read in [redacted], published by [redacted] in 2018.

  • Pagano says:

    Sounds like a rip off of Mozart in the Jungle. How can I watch?

    • John Kelly says:

      I’ve now watched this. Your suspicions are correct, it is highly derivative of MITJ. Still, it is a fun show. In the US the Topic TV channel is a premium channel on Amazon Prime and costs $4.99 a month, first month a free trial so you could watch it for free if that’s the only thing you want to see

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Anybody remember the American situation comedy show Friends and Lovers about sex and dating life in the Boston Symphony? In spite of some pretty big name actors and guest stars, it was short lived. I guess you could say it was the situation comedy that had everything – except laughs. HBO or Showtime would have added the skin that the show talked about but never showed. It was not a roman à clef in terms of real people, only real types of people.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      I need to know more about “Friends and Lovers” right now, David. When was it produced?
      I’ll be checking YouTube soonest.

  • John Kelly says:

    Considering how much other dreck is on TV nowadays this sounds like a merciful relief. And at least one conductor did apparently carry a gun…………Rodzinski. You would too if you had the NYPO in the 1940s…….I do like your idea for Eastenders though!

    • Greg Bottini says:

      The pianist-composer George Antheil, according to his own account, often placed a gun on the piano when he performed his own works.
      Imagine a concert with him as soloist, conducted by Rodzinski. I’d want to sit way up in the balcony for that one.

  • Rog says:

    I don’t often find myself thinking: this programme is terrible, but the review is worse. But Norm has achieved it. Terrible writing.