" ... Here, the idea of controversy was an apparently daring suggestion that much of Wagner’s music was symphonic in nature
Only if you rely on a definition of symphonic that elides questions of form (or did it mean any more than Wagner's music is extended & works with a kind of thematic 'development' whereas Verdi is differently extended & doesn't ((at least in the same way?))).
No. It was a deeply UNcontroversial thing to observe, and is as old as, well, Wagner himself.
I hate to be negative, but I did see last night's episode and found it pretty disappointing. I wasn't expecting anything too erudite or scholarly, but the approach seemed very slapdash, generalised, and pandered to every stereotype and cliche I could anticipate. The script was just plain lazy - all the stuff about Mahler and Sibelius for example seemed to be lifted virtually wholesale from Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise
. Ross may well have a legitimate legal case if he could be bothered.
Simon R B was sort of ok. But that wasn't good enough. And as for Mark Elder... what's happened to the guy?? His pompous gushing was really embarrassing to watch, for me. And facial expressions while conducting...? Eeeurgh. Deathridge at least had genuine authority in what he was saying but had evidently been told to keep it dumb.
What I thought it needed was a personal, zealous touch - someone to take the subject by the balls and make it gripping. More on the social history, the architecture of the concert halls, the responses of instrumental design to composers' demands for greater emotional clout and volume.
It was just sort of insipid.