Sunday, June 26, 2011

Classical Music is Rigid and Stuffy!

It seems almost impossible these days to read an article about classical music in the mainstream media without running across apology after apology. Take this for example. Sure, I know it is a simple promotion for the festival, but it seems to be apologizing for classical music. The festival is about the "less rigid side" of classical music. They want to let you know that they are hiring people with a "distinctly unstuffy take" on classical music. It is only a "so-called serious music". I love the envoi:

“We’re trying to make classical music accessible,” says Tao, who will herself be performing with her trio. “It can be fun. It can be entertaining. It’s not all serious.”
It can be just as shallow and pointless as most popular music! Oh wait, I think I just figured out why no-one will ever hire me to do promotion for classical music. Um, I doubt that classical music is terribly rigid and stuffy these days. In fact I long for the days when it was a whole lot more so. When the great Beethoven specialist Artur Schnabel would refuse for many years to record his definitive performances of the piano sonatas for fear, he said, that someday, somewhere, someone might be listening to them while eating a ham sandwich. I can almost see the New Yorker cartoon: fat, middle-aged guy dressed in a wife-beater t-shirt sitting at his kitchen table eating a ham sandwich and belching slightly while in the background is Schnabel's Moonlight sonata. Caption: "Personally, I think the tempo is a bit fast..." Reminds me of that classic New Yorker cartoon with the young boy in a tux seated at the piano onstage and speaking to the audience: "And now, god help us all, Rachmaninoff Three."

What, exactly, does classical music have to apologize for? For taking music seriously? If someone is going to take up my time, asking me to listen, I really hope they take what they are doing seriously. If you read this blog you know that I particularly like music that can be whimsical and fun. I detest music that is crude and annoying. I'm just afraid that people are having trouble making that distinction. The problem isn't that classical music is inaccessible--it's that audiences have become a little deaf.

Best wishes to the chamber music festival, by the way. I just hope that in their feverish efforts to get an audience out that they don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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