Sunday, February 02, 2014
Let's refresh jaded ears with Classic Amnesia
Widespread interest in Forgotify - a service that streams never-played Spotify tracks - is a wakeup call for classical music. So I'm proposing a crowd-funded streaming service called Classic Amnesia. Just as Spotify is an accurate barometer of popular music fashions, so the Proms are an accurate barometer of classical fashions. Classic Amnesia would interrogate the BBC Proms database and only play music by composers who have had less than five performances in the history of the venerable concert series. As an example Franz Berwald, a composer whose neglected symphonies memorably bridge the classical/romantic divide, would be on the Classic Amnesia playlist. Berwald has received just one Prom performance compared with 273 of Shostakovich's music. I make no claims that Berwald's music is the equal of Shostakovich's. But is Shostakovich really 273 times better than Berwald? Or is this obsession with a few composers just dumbing down by another name? Other composers in rotation on Classic Amnesia would include the recently featured Alan Hovhaness (one Proms performance), Lou Harrison (2) and Georg Christoph Wagenseil (0). Also worth investigating is a partnership with a leading orchestra for a Classic Amnesia festival; this would be a concert series which abandons Mahler, Shostakovich, Britten and Richard Strauss for discoveries from the station's playlist. Silly idea? Perhaps, but no more silly than some of classical music's other ideas for refreshing jaded ears.
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