May I say a word about André Rieu? It is easy to look down at him and his style of presentation, to sneer at it as schlager or easy listening or glorified elevator muzak or whatever. I've done it myself.This persuasive comment was added to Who is pushing the classical envelope?. I cannot disagree with Dave's reality check. But I would say that my post was about reaching young audiences and that the the point of juxtaposing Lady Gaga with André Rieu in the header image was not to take a swipe at him, but to suggest that classical music needs to come up with something much more radical than André Rieu if it is to break into the youth market. Yes, he sells shed loads of records, gives people pleasure and stays at the top of the classical charts. But André Rieu is simply extending classical music's traditional middle aged audience. Who is going to take it to the elusive younger audience?
But, to my own considerable surprise, I find myself less and less sympathetic with such criticisms, and more and more embarrassed to have indulged in it myself. He is providing -- dare I say it? -- innocent, wholesome pleasure to millions of people, many of whom have never been afforded the opportunity to develop sophisticated classical music tastes. My mother-in-law, who grew up in a poor neighborhood near the Chicago stockyards and certainly never had exposure to classical music growing up, enjoys her Rieu CD and video very much.
And the more I think about it, the more I can't find anything wrong with that. For it seems to me that to find fault with someone else's musical pleasure is at best presumptuous and at worst just rank snobbism.
As much as I admire artists of uncompromising ideals, I can no longer be in sympathy with them when they tear down somebody else's aesthetic, howsoever "cowpat" they think it may be.
By all means let's encourage active and critical listening. But let's also acknowledge, without condescension, that some people's personal level of active listening will be satisfied by musicians like André Rieu. If they never develop an appreciation for Elliott Carter ... so what?
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