When your livestream gets jammed

When your livestream gets jammed


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2020

Chris Morley’s review of the latest CBSO centenary concert:

CBSO (streamed from Symphony Hall)

This latest streamed concert from the CBSO in these locked-down times was well-conceived, two refreshing open-air works preceding one cathedral-closed. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla introduced the programme charmingly and persuasively, and trumpeter Jonathan Quirke prefaced the opening item enthusiastically and informatively, telling us how John Ireland’s Downland Suite had been composed as a brass band competition test-piece (as was Elgar’s Severn Suite). I have to say I prefer the string orchestra transcription, which was the title-music to BBC TV’s The Pearcross Girls, with the wondrous Penelope Wilton, nearly 50 years ago, but this was a crisp account from the brass players here, lyrical, smoothly-phrased and sensitively-balanced.

The trouble was, I couldn’t see it! There was no vision from the link I was given, so all I had to work on was puny sound from my laptop. If only this had been a broadcast heard through my well-setup loudspeakers, but in the event this was the most difficult reviewing experience I have ever endured in over half a century.

Never mind, it was good to hear the Bartok Divertimento for Strings (the first time the CBSO had played it in over 40 years, said new concertmaster Eugene Tzkindelean in his eloquent introduction, before leading a vibrant, biting, dynamically sensitive account).
Having to concentrate on just the sound, I had never realised the homage Bartok pays to the Ravel String Quartet in the central movement (and what a wonderful high violin attack in the middle there from the CBSO), and the pizzicato just before the end of the finale was gripping.

I wish I could have seen the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis which ended the programme, to observe all its built-in social distancing in Symphony Hall between the two orchestras and solo ensemble. Mirga conducted a reading smoothly manipulative in tempo, fully appreciative of the music’s ethereal qualities (she described the second orchestra as “the voice from heaven”), and this music cast a spell which worked even in my technologically hampered conditions.
Christopher Morley



  • Stephen Maddock says:

    We’re not sure why Christopher couldn’t see the pictures when reviewing the concert, but it is all working fine now and is bookable via the CBSO website.

  • John says:

    Hmmm. You are tasked with reviewing a video stream but there is no video. Did it occur to Mr Morley to contact the CBSO, get the technical issue sorted, and THEN write and post his review? Seems fairly obvious, if it really was “the most difficult reviewing experience I have ever endured in over half a century.”

    Silver lining though: we are spared the usual cringe-inducing dross about Mirga‘s haircut and what she is wearing, so it’s arguably an improvement on his usual output.

    • V. Lind says:

      I thought for a brief review it was intelligent and informed in its approach. If he usually comments on the appearance of the conductor, that seems a small price to pay.

  • Harold Wilkin says:

    It was silly to try to review a concert using a laptop that was not connected to a good sound system. Surprising good quality sound can be had from a laptop by listening on headphones plugged into a USB DAC such as one of the Audioquest Dragonfly series.

    • V. Lind says:

      I use external speakers on one of my laptops. It is night and day and I would certainly use them for reviews, were I doing them.

      But they are generally inconvenient, and I do not use them on my newer laptop. I also detest earphones.

      Or why I resist paying for livestreaming. Too many variables — WiFi can go down, source can have tech problems, one’s own computer may have inadequacies. I prefer to donate to an arts organisation than to pay for something that is only a simulation of what I want from a performance.