Skip to comments.Classical Musicís New Golden Age
Posted on 07/28/2010 5:24:08 AM PDT by sitetest
Thanks to period-music evangelists, breathtaking virtuosity, and millions of listeners, the art form remains vibrant.
Anyone inclined to lament the state of classical music today should read Hector Berliozs Memoires. As the maverick French composer tours mid-nineteenth-century Europe conducting his revolutionary works, he encounters orchestras unable to play in tune and conductors who cant read scores. A Paris premiere of a Berlioz cantata fizzles when a missed cue sets off a chain reaction of paralyzed silence throughout the entire sorry band. Most infuriating to this champion of artistic integrity, publishers and conductors routinely bastardize the scores of Mozart, Beethoven, and other titans, conforming them to their own allegedly superior musical understanding or to the narrow taste of the public.
Berliozs exuberant tales of musical triumph and defeat constitute the most captivating chronicle of artistic passion ever written. They also lead to the conclusion that, in many respects, we live in a golden age of classical music. Such an observation defies received wisdom, which seizes on every symphony budget deficit to herald classical musics imminent demise. But this declinist perspective ignores the more significant reality of our time: never before has so much great music been available to so many people, performed at levels of artistry that would have astounded Berlioz and his peers. Students flock to conservatories and graduate with skills once possessed only by a few virtuosi. More people listen to classical music today, and more money gets spent on producing and disseminating it, than ever before. Respect for a composers intentions, for which Berlioz fought so heroically, is now an article of faith among musicians and publishers alike.
(Excerpt) Read more at city-journal.org ...
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I find this hard to believe, especially the part about more people listening to classical music than ever before. Most people know rarely, if ever, listen to it.
But classical music is branded as "high brow" and our society wants to avoid "high brow" and embrace things that "keep it real" and have "street cred".
Both facts could be true. The population of the world is way higher than it was in 1800, for instance.
Classical music doesn’t have the supremacy it had in e.g. the 18th and 19th centuries. But there could still be more people listening to it.
I don’t seek it out, but listen when it’s presented to me. I enjoy it, as long as it’s not opera, which I can’t, and won’t, tolerate. Highly-trained, unnatural voices bellowing to be heard above an orchestra raises my hackles!
The last classical music station in my area closed up shop over 20 years ago. The only place you’ll find it on the radio is on a single PBS station, and that’s only part-time.
Classical will always have its admirers, but in a popular sense, it’s long been dead.
The article mentions that - at any one moment in our modern world - 10,000 people are listening to some version of the Eroica Symphony.
The ‘classical centuries’ didn’t have listening figures anything like that. Maybe 500 people a day tops. Today we have instant replay, recordings, the internet - and loads more listeners. It’s a mere added extra that the quality these days is also vastly improved.
Thank you for posting this! I have always loved Berlioz, especially his orchestrations!
Although I agree with the article (mostly in areas of virtuosity and sight-reading), I have found that in most cases, Classical Training is still sadly lacking in the Exploration of Music THEORY.
I find myself being hired to do remedial tutoring of Classically trained musicians in Chord Theory, Composition, Voice leading, and Counterpoint, using the Jazz Model that I picked up just hanging Out With Berklee Students in the Jazz Dives in Cambridge and Boston.
Some of these Folks hold degrees in music, and don’t even understand the Circle of Fifths.
But hey, I make a living.
My wife is first violin with the local symphony orchestra, and I sing baritone with the associated symphony chorus and several other groups. We have seen increasingly large crowds at our concerts over the last 5 to 10 years, and we have a backlog of people waiting to audition both instrumentally and vocally.
Highly trained yes, unnatural no. At my first voice lesson, I was 18, my instructor asked me to show her what I knew, and I blew her out of the water with “Nessun Dorma” after only listening to a recording of it a dozen times or so and never looking at the score. I’m not a tenor anymore (that was 45 yrs ago) but it is the upper extent of my range.
After describing what goes on at this particular orchestra's performances and how the musicians distract themselves when the music is second-rate:
One man only in this orchestra does not allow himself any such diversion. Wholly intent upon his task, all energy, indefatigable, his eye glued to his notes and his arm in perpetual motion, he would feel dishonored if he were to miss an eighth note or incur censure for his tone quality. By the end of each act he is flushed, perspiring, exhausted; he can hardly breathe, yet he does not dare take advantage of the respite offered by the cessation of musical hostilities to go for a glass of beer at the nearest bar. The fear of missing the first measures of the next act keeps him rooted at his post. Touched by so much zeal, the manager of the opera house once sent him six bottles of wine, "by way of encouragement." But the artist, "conscious of his responsibilities," was so far from grateful for the gift that he returned it with the proud words: 'I have no need of encouragement.' The reader will have guessed that I am speaking of the man who plays the bass drum.
I love his Requiem. Hearing the “Dies irae” (Judgement Day), with four antiphonal brass ensembles placed at the corners of the concert stage, will make the little hairs on the back of your head stand up!
The delivery system for music has changed, and for the better. The fidelity from radio was always sub-par and you were at the mercy of what the DJ wanted to play. Now you can download and archive tons of music and reproduce it digitally at will. There are many good sites on the web for streaming music.
interestingly, youtube also has a decent collection....