How to alienate classical music's new audience
Does it make sense for a critic whose usual fare is Edgard Varèse and Harrison Birtwistle to review a concert by Ludovico Einaudi? Does Philip Clark's Guardian review of Einaudi's Barbican concert, with its mandatory pop at Boris Johnson, do anything other than play to the ingrained prejudices of Guardian readers? Is it helpful to imply that the entire audience for seven sold out Einaudi Barbican performances are undiscriminating idiots? If classical music really wants to reach a wider audience it must first understand that audience. Would it not be better to devote the review to exploring the mysterious but magnetic appeal of this neo-classical pianist, who, incidentally, cites Philip Glass as a primary influence?
Ludovico Einaudi and Boris Johnson are not my cup of tea. But neither is the new classical elitism that finds expression in Philip Clark's Einaudi review and in Michelle Assay's Gramophone review of Jeremy Denk's new album. Nothing is permanent. Tastes, cultures, and technologies are changing, and so are audiences. So to rejuvenate itself classical music also must change. Ludovico Einaudi may not represent the future. But intelligent journalism exploring why Einaudi can attract a Barbican audience of more than 7000 over seven days and why he has sold almost two million records may help map out a healthy future for classical music. Good criticism is the art of objective appraisal. Philip Clark's Guardian review is highly subjective click bait dressed up as criticism, and all those who gleefully retweeted it have self-identified as members of classical music's new reactionary elite.
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