A few weeks ago an article was published in the Independent covering a talk the new head of Universal Music's classical music unit gave to the Association of British Orchestras. The appropriately named Max Hole was previously a rock band manager and the advice he gave was predictable:
He believes that classical music needs to be promoted beyond the existing core audience, not just young people but “people like me who would engage in classical music if they didn’t feel it was elitist or forbidding”.Yes, of course, classical music should be promoted just like popular music.
“Musicians need to think about the way they dress, and need to appear more excited engaged with the audience,” he said. “There’s more to it than just taking a couple of bows at the end of a concert.”
He said that the traditions and institutions that seek to promote and preserve classical music “are in danger of causing the genre great harm and hinder its growth”. Even the term “classical” is in danger of alienating its audience, he said.
Conductors need to actually talk to the audiences, and Mr Hole pointed to the “sheer exuberance” of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. He said there should be screens showing the audience the conductor’s work, and “more theatrical” use of lighting.
I couldn't agree less! This is the conventional wisdom these days and perhaps it might gain Universal Music and some of the more trivial performers more sales, but this kind of attitude is likely to make classical music just as superficial and trivial as popular music. Do I even need to point out that classical music is not the same as popular music? It attracts a different audience who listen in a different way. They really do not need to adopt all the ridiculous distractions that pop music uses to hide its vacuousness like chatting up the audience and theatrical lighting.
Max, I just can't emphasize enough how I dislike your whole attitude. In fact, it is with renewed vigor that I will set out to make classical music just as elitist and forbidding as possible in hopes of driving you as far away as possible. And furthermore, shut up!
Why did it seem like a good idea to appoint someone like Max Hole, who obviously dislikes classical music, to an important role in the business? Does Universal Music have a death-wish? It is people like Max Hole that are the ones that have the potential to cause classical music great harm.
Now, let's listen to some of that elitist, forbidding music played by a particularly elitist and forbidding performer, the great Grigory Sokolov: