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Letters, opinions, tips, reactions, suggestions?
Send your e-mail to mclennan@artsjournal.com



FROM: Alice Kornhauser

Thanks for posing this question in the context of a such a balanced report. The successes clearly reveal instances where programers are attempting to respond to a contemporary moment.

The classical music business is only slowly becoming aware of the time warp that it constructed for itself by so heavily investing in the past both financially and in terms of sacralization. Music is not dead and never will people. Neither will the human spirit stop responding to music.

It will take some time and we will see more fall out, but what emerges anew will be something relevant to our time. The 19th century gave us many beautiful gifts, but those who created them would be shocked to see us clinging to them in a way that denies the present.

Another nice success is that of the Chamber Music Society if Lincoln Center's Great Day in New York Festival done in collaboration with Merkin Concert Hall. No one dreamed such large audience would turn out for concerts of music by living composers.



FROM: Colin Eatock, Toronto

It was interesting to read how much evidence could be brought to bear on both sides of this question.

But perhaps this seeming ambivalence in classical music's health can be traced to the word "dying" itself. The analogous comparison to death conjures up the image of a once-animate organism rotting away, its spirit extinguished or departed from this world. It's not, perhaps, best analogy to use.

I don't think classical music is dying, I think it is "crystallizing": becoming a fixed and unchanging cultural phenomenon. (This seems to be true in North America, where I live and write about music. I cannot speak for Europe.)

A crystal lacks flexibility or fluidity, but it is nonetheless a very durable thing. So while the Metropolitan Opera (for example) mounts few new works, and those that are mounted consistently fail to find a place in the standard repertoire, the Met will probably always be there, cranking out 'Rigolettos' and 'Carmens'. Indeed, that institution has so much money in its endowment fund that it could live forever on bank interest alone, without having to bother about selling tickets.

In the concert halls and opera houses of the North America, the standard repertoire has become sacred and impenetrable. New works receive, at best, a brief, hollow, succes d'estime - often in ghettoizing "festivals" - before they are forgotten. It seems that society still values classical music, but as an historical phenomenon in which the new no longer has a place.


FROM: Luca Sabbatini


I'm a journalist and music critic from Geneva, Switzerland. I've read with interest your "Arts Watch" about classical music. My conclusion is that the old fashioned way to promote or sell classical music isn't adapted to today's fast moving world.

Everytime an orchestra, a record label, a festival or a radio channel tries to innovate, the success comes fast and steady. The New York Phil sells more CDs than ever thanks to its own label, broadcasts over the Net attract big crowds of listeners, open-minded festivals are easily sold-out, etc.

The problem is: the "old" industry thinks that the only way to bring people to classical music is to dumb down the quality, or to maintain an artificial, stupid and costly star system. The "crisis of classical music" is the crisis of a greedy system established a long time ago, fighting for its survival. Hopefully, a lot of good things might (and will) come out from this crisis. Keep up the good work!


Is Classical Music Dying?
For some time now, the classical music press has been holding a virtual deathwatch. But what does the evidence really say?
ArtsJournal 02/23/01