What we need are virtuoso audiences
Both of these types of pieces are essentially contrapuntal and can be very demanding on the members of the audience requiring them to become at times 'virtuoso listeners' as they penetrate the interaction and winding ways of the musical lines.So writes lutenist Hopkinson Smith about Francesco da Milano's Fantasias and Recercari which feature on the superb new Naïve CD seen above. And how right Hopkinson Smith is about the need for virtuoso listeners. So much futile effort is being extended today on trying to reach non-existent new audiences for classical music when, what is really needed, is to develop, extend and challenge existing audiences.
For an example of a virtuoso audience look no further than any Britten Sinfonia concert. This ensemble refused to play the celebrity music director game and instead poured their considerable talents into developing a virtuoso audience that fills concert halls for everything from the Tunisian oud to Handel's Messiah. When a critic of the stature of Richard Morrison writes in the Times of a Britten Sinfonia concert that 'this is the future of classical music', it is time to sit up and take notice.
The ears of a virtusos listener are open to everything from early to contemporary music, and beyond to world music and jazz. And that is the polar opposite of today's audiences where specialisation increasingly means dualism. I shudder every time I see initiatives like the Boston Symphony Orchestra's recently announced subsidised tickets for concert goers under-40. Quick fixes to reach new audiences are so yesterday. The way forward is imaginative and intelligent programming that will turn existing audiences into virtuoso listeners, who then create a virtuous circle as marketing ambassadors spreading the word that classical music is alive, kicking and happening. It's not wishful thinking. Who would have bet on a mainstream critic like Richard Morrison enthusing over a fusion of classical and world music?
I said earlier that today specialisation among audiences actually means dualism. Here, in conclusion, is a section from Steve Hagen's incomparable book Buddhism Pure and Simple. It is as relevant to classical music as it is to anything:
For those unfamiliar with the term as it's being used here, dualism simply refers to the world of left and right, dark and light, good and bad, pure and impure. It's the psychological backdrop for our everyday world of chasing after some things and running away from others, the world in which if you differ from me, then there's something wrong with you.More Francesco da Milano here.
Hopkinson Smith CD was purchased from the invaluable Prelude Records. If I hadn't seen it on their shelf you would not be reading about it here. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk