How much thought is given to the way classical music is programmed?

Classical music needs to reach new audiences, and, indeed, it also needs to retain its existing audience. But how much thought is given to the way classical music is programmed? The Artistic Director and cellist Alexander Scherf of Concerto Köln provides food for thought on the subject of repertoire programming in the booklet for Berlin Classic's 12 CD + DVD box of Concerto Köln recordings, from which the quote below is taken. The importance of storytelling and awakening listeners' curiosity is important and all too often overlooked in both album and concert programming; for instance where does storytelling fit into the ubiquitous composer anniversary programmes? But there is a wider relevance: how can the playlists and mixtapes which dominate classical streaming, which in turn dominates recorded classical listening, tell a story? Is that why classical music is losing traction in the age of streaming? Here is the quote from Alexander Scherf:
Simple composer portraits, common as they were 15 years ago, are no longer all that interesting. Nowadays, it's more about 'storytelling', as is the case with the album about Vivaldi's violin muse. It's the story that makes the concept of an album so exciting. In order for it to have the highest entertainment, we have to tell stories with the music to inspire listener's imagination which otherwise only happens during concerts. We are no longer striving as much for encyclopaedic excellence, but rather for what we experience together with the audience in a live concert. An idea has to be conveyed that awakens curiosity.
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Comments

Pliable said…
I fully appreciate that BBC Radio 3 is struggling to source recorded material due to the pandemic. But, even allowing for that, the schedule for this afternoon (Dec 15) seems to lack any narrative thread, other than the worked-to-death composer anniversary story -

BBC Philharmonic:

Ludwig van Beethoven: Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II
Ludwig van Beethoven: Leonore Prohaska - Funeral March
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A

Julia Maria Dan (soprano)
Kitty Whately (mezzo)
Anthony Gregory (tenor)
Andrew Foster-Williams (bass-baritone)
Manchester Chamber Choir
BBC Philharmonic conducted by Mark Wigglesworth

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra:

Anton Bruckner: Symphony No 8 in C minor
BBCSSO conducted by Donald Runnicles
I'm not much of a radio listener these days but a program I would find fun that could have a narrative thread would be to do a survey of an evolution in contrapuntal writing for the keyboard that could start with some of Zaderatsky's Preludes and Fugues that he composed during his time in the Gulag in the 1930s; move to excerpts of Paul Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis; get to Shostakovich (because he's unavoidable but he like his preludes and fugues); and then move to Rodion Shchedrin's preludes and fugues or polyphonic notebook; then excerpts from Henry Martin's cycle and wrapping things up with excerpts from the 24 Preludes and Fugues written with jazz/classical synthesis by Nikolai Kapustin and Michelle Gorrell. That would cover a fairly broad spectrum of the last century's worth of contrapuntal music be composers in the West and from eastern Europe and show how steadily (if slowly) jazz, blues and vernacular styles have found ways into contrapuntal writing in both the West and East over the last century.

That kind of program has a narrative thread and would expose listeners to the fact that there are more cycles of contrapuntal music that have been written in the last 120 years then people may realize. If I were to go by normal radio program standards I might get the mistaken idea that fugue-writing more or less stopped at J. S. Bach. :(
Zaderatsky should be on the radio in any case. There shouldn't be any need for any kind of narrative as an excuse.

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