wed 08/07/2020

Opinion: If the classical concert scene ain't broke, don't fix it | reviews, news & interviews

Opinion: If the classical concert scene ain't broke, don't fix it

Opinion: If the classical concert scene ain't broke, don't fix it

Try out fresh approaches, but don't change the formula of respectful listening

An empty Royal Festival Hall auditorium. What does it need to fill it?Morley von Sternberg

Most of us don't object to experiments in concert presentation - the occasional one-off showcase to lure the young and suspicious into the arcane world of attentive concert-going, the odd multimedia event as icing on the cake. It's only those pundits obsessed with the key word "accessibility" who tell us that the basic concept of sitting (or standing, as they have at the Proms for well over a century) and listening with respect for those around us needs overhauling. It's a typical journalistic conception of "either/or" instead of "all approaches welcome" - a case of what an American academic I know calls "bad binaries".

A conductor who's more than a showman will know how to freeze incipient, untimely applause

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good article. It surely is a nut to crack how to get the traditional classic concert performance more flexible. As a dj I play/mix only classical music, no beats; check my site. Curious what you'll think of it. Kind regards, peter

Another point worth making is that is music education in schools did its job properly - or even existed - then perhaps we wouldn't need all these ingenious gimmicks to get young people to go to concerts in the first place.

I agree with so much of what David Nice writes. Speaking for myself, I much prefer formality, the church-like quiet and focused attention of the concert format that I grew up with. And yet... The problem with "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is that one day we wake up and it's broke. And it's incredibly hard to fix at that point.

You should check out Nonclassical, which has been running a vibrant and well-attended series of classical club nights in London since 2003. It sold out Kings Place last week. It's very similar to the kind of set-up you describe as having originated in Berlin, except that it actually originated in nights put on by Factory Records back in the late 80s as well as in a whole load of smaller, less well-documented scenes.

The worst behaved audiences I know are the oldies from the suburbs (snobbish presumption, maybe) who come up for the standard overture-concerto-symphony fare on a Sunday night. Younger, more casually dressed folk are much more attentive.

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