Reach is equally important in repertoire

A reader has pointed out this YouTube trailer for the new recording of Donald Fraser's orchestration of Elgar's Piano Quintet which featured here yesterday. If we accept social media reaction as a meaningful measure of audience engagement, then this new expression of Elgar's chamber music masterpiece is engaging a lot of people. Proms founder Sir Henry Wood was a celebrated advocate of orchestrations; which raises the question as to why Ken Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra were not invited to perform the orchestration at the 2016 Proms instead of one of the four Mahler symphonies. And if anyone accuses me of repeating myself about the predictable and uninspiring BBC Proms season, I will respond by saying that if yet another appearance by Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, by Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, and Rattle and the Berlin Phil is not repetition, what is? The credo of Sir William Glock, whose strong commitment to the new transformed the Proms, should be painted in bold letters on the wall of the Proms planners' office. Here is that credo as recounted by Robert Simpson*:
Glock argued with some energy that the 'central' repertoire was by now continually available at other concerts (of which there were many more than there used to be) as well as on radio or records. This 'freed' the Proms to become a festival of wider reach..."
Today classical music is making the grave error in its obsessive search for new audiences of trying only to extend demographic 'reach'. Reach is as important in repertoire, particularly if the core audience is to be retained. However the addiction to demographic reach is truncating repertoire reach, which in turn abrades the vital core audience. But there is a very good reason for this: classical music is locked into a vicious circle whereby the inflated financial demands of the repertoire-challenged celebrity circus can only be met by the income generated by huge audiences. How long before the Proms move to the O2 Arena for stadium Mahler?

That quote comes from Robert Simpson's attack on repertoire myopia The Proms & Natural Justice. The quote is somewhat ironic as Simpson was a vociferous critic of Glock's Proms programming, particularly his exclusion of English neo-romantic composers such as Edmund Rubbra. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.


renee' baker said…
In a mindless effort to create something NEW, the Chicago Sinfonietta has erred in that the reach to patrons has been truncated by the obvious thinking that the audience is an inferior. Maestro Freeman was not against a novelty but a steady diet of Cheetos is demeaning. Surprised the audience hasn't caught on. The programs are now shadows of excerpts generally performed for kiddie concerts..This reaches no real new audiences and panders to the patrons who are inside an active bait and switch scheme.

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