Taking up the cudgels for classical music - inspired by my concert tour through Canada in Nov. 2018
Pathos alert. But, oh well.
I believe in classical music. I believe in the future of classical music. And I believe in the importance of it. Here’s why I have to get this off my chest.
Similar to our tradition in Germany of holding pre concert introductory events, here in Canada it’s the artists themselves presenting and talking about the program to the audience, or at least a part of it. Every pre chat we did was attended by many curious people of all ages. And every audience in all five cities we have visited for a performance consisted of people of all ages. And talking to “my” wonderful conductor Bernhard Gueller about this state, having been able to personally witness the changes over a course of 16 years, he says that audiences are constantly and increasingly getting younger. Which he successfully contributed to with his intelligently programmed concerts. You can tell by now where I’m getting at with this post. I’m tired of people claiming that our genre, our audience is dying out. That it’s boring. That it’s not attractive enough. I’m tired of people trying to talk us into experiments because of a … lack of interest by the audience? A lack of education? A young woman approached me last night after our final performance of a moving Barber-Beethoven-Haydn-journey over the past week, stating that I was the first ever professional pianist that she had heard perform in her life. She loved the Beethoven, she loved the entire experience. And she loved my outfit. She said I looked beautiful in my sparkling dress and that she wants to have one like it as well. If that’s one of her reasons to attend another concert – I’ll take it. Go Beethoven! And thanks mum for your spontaneous buy shortly before I left for Canada. Anyway. Her (assumed) boyfriend of the same age also seemed to be rather impressed and told me how much he had enjoyed it. So did many kids, shyly approaching me, holding on to daddy’s or mummy’s hand. After the first concert in Halifax someone shared a very personal story of how the concert has given him strength after a recent loss of two loved ones and stressed the healing powers of music. I could go on and on.
Here comes the shocking fact behind it all: we used classical music … to promote classical music. There is a saying in german that roughly translates to “buying the cat in a sack”, basically meaning that we want to know what we’re dealing with. If we buy something, we need to inspect it first. You don’t want to be getting a stuffed cat when you payed for a rabbit. I’ve recently read in my horoscope that I tend to keep talking even though nobody’s listening anymore, so please feel free to stop reading in case you’re already bored.
For every one else out there: I just want to state that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why we should try to allure people into a classical music concert with something that has absolutely nothing to do with it. If you want them to listen to Beethoven give them Beethoven and if they don’t like it, fine. If they do, great. It’s okay for classical music to be more demanding, in a way that you will enjoy it much more when listening to it in a quiet hall or at home than with a stadium full of a screaming crowd. Or when knowing more about the pieces and backgrounds. That’s okay. It’s okay for it to be more serious. And less “entertaining”. Because there is a large group of people out there who are looking for exactly that. There is no need for Mozart to be combined with techno music or Vivaldi with Nirvana. It’s going to turn out bad, I guarantee it. And that goes without any judgment regarding the respective fields. Whichever you prefer. But please pick one at a time. (This is obviously a very personal point of view.)
We need to give everyone a real chance to decide wether or not they enjoy listening to classical music. They’re not stupid. And in all fairness, these kids attending my concerts are probably coming from a musically educated home. Not all have that so we need to bring it to them. But we need to expose kids to the truth, not a light version of whatever some think is too difficult to digest. I’m not saying that this is the solution to all problems, at all, but if this is part of what it takes, a leap of faith and a little bit of courage to take a stand for classical music in front of a most critical audience, which is kids, so be it. If “all” it takes is a funny story about Beethoven or a statement about how Mozart stole Haydns thunder, so be it. Let’s get out there and share what we know and if someone is still not convinced, then I respect that.
Before this is turning too much into an “esse quam videri”, #staytruetoyourself #soinspiring #lifeisbeautiful post, I just want to say that I am highly impressed by you, Canada. Once more. And I am thankful for the amazing experience and the rare opportunity to get to play a piano concerto five times in a row. Thank you, Bernhard, for that. Thank you, Symphony Nova Scotia and Symphony New Brunswick. And to you, Shimon and Peggy, for creating a home away from home. And all the others who have contributed to making this trip so special and work out perfectly smooth. Thank you. Pathos over.