jeudi 26 août 2010

Who is pushing the enveloppe ? ... Art versus Enjoyment

Bob Shingleton's On an overgrown path raises the question of who is pushing the envelope for classical music. I can think of 2 names which are clear examples although not simple ones:
  • If you do not come to the Met, its new manager Peter Gelb is ensuring that it goes to you via the now celebrated simulcast movie theaters performances. If on the one hand, he is still struggling to get New York audiences to appreciate anything than the stagings they have had for several centuries (see Toscagate here), opera is definitely finding new channels via the broadcast which have combined quality reproduction and live feelings.
  • The closes that Classical Music has of a Lady Ga-Ga is Lang Lang. No offence to the pianist but even Karajan did not have a line of scarves and shoes at his effigy. He definitely is reaching audiences that would not hear classical music otherwise (as judged by the fact that his concerts are populated by people who applaude after every movement and loose attention when he plays very advanced ultra-modern composers like ... Prokofiev or Albeniz). He also can be congratulated by having a wide repertory, ie not always playing Tchaikowsky's First Piano Concerto ad nauseam (or the Yellow River concerto, which the Chinese equivalent and a much better piece). He is immensely talented but he is a showman that distorts the works by extreme of tempis with little sense of the music architectures. Yes, he is bringing music to new ears but he is serving him and less the composers.

It is important to push audiences and bring them to our worldbut the challenge is to do this while not vulgarising works whose value can be appreciated only by active listening of the audience. As we say, art not enjoyment ...

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