Staff Sargent

'Staff Sargent', in BBC Proms 2017: Festival Guide (BBC Publications/Bloomsbury, 2017), 80-83, reprinted in Prom 13 programme (24 July 2017)

Proms Extra: Pre-Concert Talk, Imperial College London, 24 July 2017, broadcast as interval for Prom 13 (Juan Carlos Jaramillo, producer)

Malcolm Sargent epitomised the Proms from 1947 until his death in 1967. Fifty years later, his methods, style and colourful private life still divide opinion.

With his Brylcreemed hair, dapper dress and white carnation, he looked like a popular entertainer. In hindsight, the superficial gloss masked a public leader, who widened audiences by reinventing the Last Night for the television age. In this short article for the BBC Proms Guide 2017, I traced his career and highlighted his achievements.

The immediate impetus for remembering Sargent in 2017 was the half-century since 1967. Linked events included a full evening concert recreating Sargent's 500th Prom - the First Night of 1966 - and, for the Last Night of 2017, a performance of his attractive An Impression on a Windy Day (1921).

Both evenings featured the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which Sargent was once chief conductor. The Prom re-creation, on 24 July 2017, was preceded by a Proms Extra event, for which I joined Humphrey Burton and Sara Mohr-Pietsch to discuss the conductor's broader contribution - in wartime, with other orchestras, with choirs, in the studio, and in comparison to his conducting contemporaries.

'I very much enjoyed the Proms Extra talk this evening for the Sargent reconstruction. Brava, as usual.'

James Brooks Kuykendall, professor of music

Sargent's media and education work, his advocacy of fine twentieth-century British music, and his success in expanding the Proms repertory through choral music (alongside William Glock, BBC Controller of Music from 1959) all stretched the venerable Henry Wood tradition.

Maintaining the Proms' popularity at a difficult period - audiences revered Sargent - in turn allowed wider artistic experimentation across the BBC, securing the future development of music in public broadcasting.

'what a wonderful piece about Sargent in this year's Proms brochure'

Sara Mohr-Pietsch, BBC Radio 3

© 2017 Leanne Langley | Website by Ben Byford and powered by ProcessWire CMS