Thursday, December 07, 2017

The art of the classical maverick


In preparation for returning again to Papal Provence I have revisited David Munrow's 1973 three LP set The Art of Courtly Love. With so much soul-searching about how classical music can reach a new young audience it is worth remembering that David Munrow's BBC Radio 3 Pied Piper programme was broadcast four times a week for five years and introduced a huge audience to the riches of early music. He also presented the TV series Ancestral Voices, a title described as sounding like the greatest Led Zeppelin album never recorded; which may help explain why Munrow's popularity peaked in the early 1970s, when the young and alternative dominated the zeitgeist.

David Munrow was truly multi-talented, and much of his appeal came from his advocacy of composers such as Guillaume de Machaut, Gilles Binchois and Guillaume Dufay, who were totally unknown and alien in style to the wider public in the 1970s. Today Simon Rattle, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Gustavo Dudamel are undoubtedly immensely talented conductors, but they are also essentially single-dimensional musicians whose reputations rest on superior interpretations of familiar mainstream repertoire. David Munrow scorned building better mousetraps from familiar repertoire, instead he reached a huge new audience by literally playing the role of music maverick. There is more on mavericks, technologists and other agents of change in my interview with David Munrow's mentor and recording producer Christopher Bishop, which can be read via this link or heard on SoundCloud.

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