The "Death" of Classical Music
Eatock, Colin, Queen's Quarterly
Has classical music become nothing more than the petrified forest of modem culture? Sometimes it seems that its practitioners are the art form's own worst enemies, closing off the world of classics from potential new audiences and ignoring compositions outside the canon. Meanwhile, financial crises continue to afflict classical ensembles all over the world. Still, to talk of the "death" of such an integral part of our culture is perhaps to look at it from the wrong perspective. After all, the music's traditional strength has always been that it transcends something as mundane as death.
IT was eleven o'clock on a weekday night in an Anglican church in Ottawa; at the height of summer's dog days, it was hotter indoors than Out. Lacking air-conditioning, the stately old building could offer only a few ceiling fans to move the air, providing little relief to the sweltering crowd within.
What, short of impending Armageddon, could possibly have filled a church at such an unlikely time? Readers from the national capital region may recognize what I am describing: this was the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival -- the phenomenally successful extravaganza that in nine years has grown to become the largest chamber music festival in the world.
The concert was one in a series of five festival performances by Montreal pianist Louis-Philippe Pelletier featuring the complete piano repertoire of Claude Debussy. And although much of the program contained lesser-known works by the French composer, enthusiasts stood in line for as long as two hours to get in.
Acting as master of ceremonies for the concert, Ottawa Citizen music critic Richard Todd announced that he would be attending 30 of the 112 concerts in the two-week festival. Remarkably, when he asked if anyone in the audience planned to attend more than that, some people raised their hands.
That something as rarified as a chamber music festival could be so popular in the year 2002 confounds all …
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Publication information: Article title: The "Death" of Classical Music. Contributors: Eatock, Colin - Author. Magazine title: Queen's Quarterly. Volume: 109. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2002. Page number: 403+. © 1998 Queen's Quarterly. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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