Settled Imperfections ?
"tie gtede *Se
That it is my duty to administer kicks and not ha'pence to the B.B.C. is an
established rule of radio criticism. But isn't that the attitude of every listener? Come to think of it, how rarely one hears anyone stick up for those people. " I wish they wouldn't " is the refrain of most of the radio chat one overhears. A man who was really enthusiastic about his wireless would be looked on as a freak and be regarded narrowly by his fellows.
Well, heaven knows there are plenty of things I wish they wouldn't. There is a new announcer who says " allies " and "allied" with an accent on the first syllable—most irritating—and who talks of the " gover'mcnt." I wish he wouldn't.
A Time III-Chosen
And why in the world have they put Mr. C. H. Middleton on to broadcast at two o'clock on Sunday afternoons? Ninetyfive per cent. of his enormous public is occupied at that hour in washing up the Sunday dinner.
The B.B.C. seems to think we all have servants these days, whereas servants are rapidly coming to be as rare in England as they are in Canada. The B.B.C. assumes we are persons of leisure. I wish it wouldn't.
Trivialities—And Why This is radio criticism as most of us practise it in tube and omnibus. Trivialities, you will say? Well, we are right to confine ourselves to trivialities, because if we begin to get down to fundamentals we shall merely break our hearts.
It would be a lunatic game to administer kicks to the B.B.C. in regard to fundamentals. Because that is just what they would be—kicks. You might as well go up to Broadcasting House and kick it; with slippers on. You would be properly regarded as certifiable.
The truth is that the B.B.C: is now so cemented into the fabric of " things as they arc," that you couldn't tinker with it without bringing the whole fabric about your ears. Alter England and you will alter the B.B.C.; but not vice versa.
I turned on my wireless the other evening, quite at random, to catch these words: The Spanish revolution has nothing whatever to do with Communism ": and the voice of an amiable doctrinaire droned on, permitting itself just once a moment of human emotion that was almost passion when it referred to " the women and children slaughtered in Madrid by German and Italian aircraft "; or words to that effect.
No Will of Its Own
It would be easy enough to accuse the B.B.C. of being pro-Communist in the Spanish matter. But it would be wrong. The B.B.C. has no will of its own; it is far too careful.
A true statement of the case wouldbe this: if you can suppose a man who never read a newspaper and took all his information about what is going on in Spain from the wireless. that man's views would be utterly one-sided. They would be distorted to a degree. But they would reflect pretty accurately the views of most of his fellow-countrymen.
Instalments of Truth
The press—the official press, at least— is not, heaven knows, conspicuous for telling the whole truth; but it can tell some of it when it suits it; and at any rate newspapers are indispensable in the present crisis, as the man who proposed to rely solely on wireless would very soon find.
Perhaps the hardest thing you can say abeut the B.B.C. is that it is so far behind even the official press in what it dares to
say. But the B.B.C. cannot afford to be a free-lance..
No, when the majority of our fellowcountrymen have had their eyes opened, and see the Spanish crisis as it is, then we in short, the concert was entirely peaceful and completely satisfying.
The Women's Orchestra
The British Women's Symphony Orchese tra Concert also came in for some stinging criticism; this time there was more to warrant it, for the playing was poor in the light of professional standards, and the percussion section had practically no life in it at all. Anyhow, the Rimsky Korsakov Symphony is an empty bit of work, scarcely worth playing. In the Sibelius Violin Concerto Miss Bustabo showed some facile double stopping and graceful bowing but muddied the performance with an overpassionate vibrato
The Beethoven concert, which was the fourth of the London Symphony Orchestra series, consisted of Coriolanus Overture, the Eroica Symphony, and the Emperor Concerto with Moisewitch as soloist. The playing under George Szell's vigorous and unambiguous conducting bristled with a splendid energy and zest.
shall notice a reflection of it in the broadcasts.
The safe and amiable doctrinaires whose commentaries tune in so faithfully with the general feeling at the present moment will be leavened with something more realistic; because general feeling will then demand something more realistic.
No scientific instrument could ever have been invented to measure and record the fluctuations in the popular mind more accurately than our national system of broadcasting. But remember that it is we who designed and perfected the instrument. It is useless to blame the instrument.
The broadcast of Wilde's " The Importance of Being Ernest " was set in a quiet, straightforward key that exactly suited it. The honours went easily to the women, of whom Gwendolen Evans was perhaps the best; though Gladys Young as Miss Prism ran her very close. But when shall we get a Lady Bracknell who is not aware of being funny? Mabel Terry-Lewis was almost the least part-conscious I have heard; but she could walk away with it if only she would forget that we were laughing at what she says.
I quarrel with Mr. Gielgud's cutting. Wilde's humour so often relies upon two sentences, of which the first is preparation for the second. They are like the branch and the flower. Mr. Gielgud had a way of lopping off the flower and leaving us the branch, which was maddening. Lady Bracknell's " It reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution " is not witty, or not nearly so witty, without the line Wilde meant it to precede, " I suppose you know what that unfortunate movement led to?"; and as for letting her say " We have missed several trains " (a silly remark by itself) without adding " To miss any more might expose us to comment on the platform," that is mutilation.
I suppose we all look forward to our favourite lines and are annoyed when we don't get them. But cutting of that sort is so insensitive and no time is really saved by it. Let Mr. Gielgud look into the matter before the revival of this play.
" The Vagabond King " was interesting in two ways. There is only one tune in it; and the spoken words were by far the best part. The explanation is that the dialogue was taken bodily from Justin McCarthy's play, written nearly forty years ago, when good writing was not only understood but demanded in these entertainments, and the music has been written for an age which finds one tune enough. and often more than enough, in any comic opera.
The rest of the music is the most windy vapouring I ever heard. The Theatre Orchestra and Chorus, to say nothing of the principals, did it more than justice. But I was sorry for them all; and in particular for that fine musician Mark Lub bock, who conducted. The blending of preand post-war notions of entertainment was not happy.
The revival of Compton Mackenzie's " Carnival " is down for December 14. I don't know how many times it has been revived, but there is something about it that makes it come up fresh every time.
The dramatic department have a natural affection for it, because it was the first of their plays in which the possibilities of the new medium were fully exploited. This was in 1929, a year of discovery, for it discovered Harman Grisewood, the best romantic actor radio has ever known. Maurice Avory in " Carnival " was his first part, and Peter Creswell never did a better day's work when in a moment of inspiration be offered it to him.
Many of the old cast will be playing in the revival; but Mr. Grisewood has long been translated into a higher sphere where his qualities are wasted. To employ him as an announcer is like using a Stradivarius on a tramp-steamer to pipe the hands on deck, Briefly as to future arrangements: "Tschiffely's Ride," a book which many people love, is to be made into a feature programme (December 20); the informal " Party " on Christmas Day, which everybody enjoys, is in the hands of Charles Brewer again, and promises to be as good as ever; Eric Maschwitz and Archie Campbell are hard at work on their December Revue (December 22); The King's College, Cambridge, choir will be relayed as usual in carols on Christmas Eve; and— all musical listeners please note—the 150th anniversary of Weber's birth, neglected in London, will be properly celebrated in Birmingham in a most interesting Weber concert on December 18, under Leslie lieward.