Magazine article The Spectator

Interview beyond the Elite

Magazine article The Spectator

Interview beyond the Elite

Article excerpt

There are few art forms with more colossal barriers to entry than classical music. Picture yourself finally plucking up the courage to go to your first classical concert. You arrive late, because at that gig last Saturday you had to sit through two ill-judged warm-up acts, an act of charity you're not inclined to repeat; but here, even the slightest tardiness has you waiting outside until that gruelling pause, presumably marked in the programme, when the orchestra falls silent, the conductor slowly and disapprovingly turns to look at the doors, and you and a couple of other heathen shuffle in, mumbling about taxis and Bob Crow. What's more, you go and clap after the andante, to the sneering delight of your more sonata form-savvy neighbours.

And, before all this, you somehow have to find out the performance is actually taking place, which is difficult when hardly anyone's tweeting about it.

Enter Charles Hazlewood, a conductor who has taken it upon himself to widen the reach of classical music beyond the refuge of the elite it has become. 'My own love of music is very broad, ' he says, 'and for me there are only two types of music: great music and bad music.' (The former spans everything from Bach to The Prodigy, but he doesn't elaborate on the latter. ) So, in the spirit of taking great music to the masses, he's leading two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in February that will involve more than 300 young people from Southwark, as part of the Southbank Centre's annual children's festival. They'll be joining forces with the Philharmonia Orchestra to perform Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Dvorak's New World Symphony.

The choice of the latter sheds some light on Hazlewood's motives, as it was composed as a response to Dvorak's immigration to America. 'London is the most multicultural city in the world, ' Hazlewood tells me, showering me with statistics (did you know that this year's Olympics will be the first in which the native language of every competing nation is already spoken on the host city's streets? I certainly didn't); and part of his mission is to present classical music as a way of celebrating that multiculturalism, as opposed to the white, middle-class playground it can resemble to outsiders.

Of course, promoting classical music is one of those ideals we've come to accept unquestioningly; like the pious being told to spread the word, we nod along absently from the pews, content to let others do the actual converting legwork. Only when something particularly indigestible is said are we jolted to our senses; and, in this case, the jolt was a reference to classical music as a 'birthright'. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.